Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum Presents Outdoor Exhibition on Revolutionary African American Men

February 1, 2021
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Duke Ellington in profile leaning over a piano

Duke Ellington composing at the piano, 1928. Valentino Sarra, Duke Ellington Collection. Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

“If you can’t beat ’em, work around ’em.” That is the Anacostia Community Museum’s innovative approach to hosting its new exhibition, “Men of Change: Taking it to the Streets” outside Feb. 1–May 31 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The museum has creatively reimagined the exhibition for outdoor presentation on the campus of Ron Brown High School and the Deanwood Community Center in Northeast Washington, D.C. The exhibition presents the narrative of a nation through the profiles of two dozen significant African American men who are powerful icons in the country’s historical and cultural landscape. The presentation of “Men of Change: Taking it to the Streets” is organized in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibitions Service (SITES). It is an adaptation of the SITES traveling exhibition “Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth.” It was made possible through the support of the Ford Motor Company and Community Service.

Available outside for socially distanced viewing 24 hours a day, the “Taking it to the Streets” installation features multiple stand-alone and fence displays on six streets, including the campus of Ron Brown High School at 4800 Meade St. N.E. in Ward 7. The site is conveniently near the Metro Deanwood station. The exhibition’s impact is augmented by pop-up building projections of content in Ward 8 and at Union Market and the opportunity for deeper engagement with the school and local Deanwood community through a series of targeted programs. A section added to the original seven-part exhibition will allow the students and community to designate and honor local men of change.

“The Anacostia Community Museum is proud to be hosting ‘Men of Change: Taking it to the Streets’ during this unprecedented health crisis and pivotal time in America’s continued struggle for racial equality,” said Melanie Adams, director of the museum. “With African American stories largely absent from the historical narrative, this reimagined exhibition, allows us to make accessible, the contributions of African American men to our country and culture.”

“Men of Change” highlights revolutionary men, including Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, W.E.B. DuBois and Kendrick Lamar as well as less famous but equally revolutionary men, whose journeys have altered the history and culture of the country through politics, sports, science, entertainment, business and religion. The exhibition weaves a collective tapestry of what it is to be an African American man, past and present, and the legacy that only strengthens across generations.

A diverse group of artists, advisors, academics, curators and museum professionals determined the men chosen as “Men of Change.” From Carter G. Woodson to Ryan Coogler to Washington’s own Duke Ellington, these men have changed entire fields, fought for justice, revolutionized art and touched millions of lives directly and indirectly.

The public outreach for the exhibition includes the Feb. 6 1 p.m. virtual panel moderated by CNN Correspondent Omar Jimenez and featuring Jonathan Jackson, designer of the “Men of Change” exhibition, architect and founding partner at WSDIA; Dr. Rob Gore, emergency room doctor, founder of KAVI Brooklyn and featured “Man of Change”; and Tariku Shiferaw, commissioned “Men of Change” artist. For more information and to register for the event, visit and follow #menofchangedc.

“Men of Change: Taking it to the Streets” is sponsored locally by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the Smithsonian Women’s Committee. Media sponsorship is provided by the Washington Informer newspaper.

Established in 1967, the Anacostia Community Museum examines the impact of contemporary social issues on urban communities. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, the museum’s programming occurs virtually and outside. Visit for information on public programs and exhibitions and follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 65 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. For more information, including exhibition descriptions and tour schedules, visit

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Open House Wednesday, Feb 3, 1–2:30 p.m.
RSVP: Marcia Baird Burris, 202-320-1735;