National Black Museum making history

Relics from Black Chicago among items to draw big crowds to Washington for opening weekend

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Crusader staff report

It will be an epic weekend with massive crowds descending on Washington to witness a significant milestone in Black history in America.

Demand is soaring among visitors scrambling to get tickets to the new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), which will open September 24 during a three day celebration of Black music and culture. Its all happening on the 100th Anniversary of the Great Migration, a period where millions of Blacks moved to northern cities to escape racism and economic hardships in the South.

At the museum opening, visitors will spend hours learning about the Black experience with perhaps the most vivid and vast collection of artifacts that took over a decade to acquire. Some of those artifacts will be from Chicago, including Emmett Till’s casket and a vintage office desk from the legendary Chicago Defender.

In the middle of it all will be Chicago’s Lonnie G. Bunch III, the founding director of the mammoth museum located near the iconic Washington Monument. Bunch is the former director of the Chicago History Museum, who served there until 2005 before taking over the helm at the NMAAHC.

With 400,000 square feet holding more than 36,000 Black artifacts, relics and documents, the long-awaited museum is attracting interest from people across the country. They along with A list celebrities have donated millions to help The Smithsonian open the largest Black museum in the nation’s history.

The museum cost $540 million to build. Several prominent Black celebrities have opened their coffers in a national campaign that has raised more than half of the total amount. Oprah has given $21 million. Michael Jordan gave $5 million, and television producer and Chicago native Shonda Rhimes has donated $10 million to the facility.

In May, Hollywood stud Denzel Washington along with his wife Pauletta raised $17 million for the NMAAHC. Entertainment mogul Tyler Perry gave at least a million, along with the Chicago-based Johnson Publishing Company. Other million-dollar donors include the national Black fraternities Alpha Phi Alpha, Omega Psi Phi and Sigma Pi Phi.

Excitement began building when the museum announced its opening date earlier this year, but interest has soared as sneak previews and national stories indicate that this facility is the greatest of its kind.

From the fedora of Michael Jackson to Wrought-iron ankle shackles of the type used to restrain enslaved people aboard ships, the artifacts tell the story of Black life, history and culture in America. More than 300 volunteers have been trained to seek out and support visitors who become distressed by the exhibits that focus on slavery and other painful chapters of U.S. history. There will also be nurses on call.

Admission to the museum is free, but Smithsonian officials are giving out timed passes to help manage the massive crowds that are expected to flood the facility during its opening weekend.

The response has so high that museum officials on September 2 made available some 80,000 passes that are valid from the September 24 opening through October 2.

The move came after more than 28,000 opening tickets were gone within an hour on Saturday, August 27.

The new timed passes are available on the museum website at www.nmaahc.si.edu or by calling 800-514-3849 or 919-653-0443 between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. There is a limit of 6 timed passes per order.

Hours on the opening day, Sept. 25, have been extended two hours until 8 p.m. (because a reception is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m.) On Sunday, Sept. 25, the museum will open at 7 a.m. – three hours earlier – and remain open until midnight.

The timed passes designate a 15-minute window for visitors to enter the museum. They are being used to control crowds and limit wait times at the museum’s entrance. Once they have entered, visitors may spend as much time as they’d like in the museum.

 

 

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