Students Visit the Newly-Opened African American History Museum

Rick Henneman

Several Youngstown State University students traveled to Washington, D.C. on Oct. 22 to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum opened in late September, and aims to help visitors understand American history through the lens of the black experience.

The trip was organized by the Africana studies program. Program Director Tiffany Anderson said all students, regardless of race, should take the time to experience what the new museum has to offer.

“It’s beneficial for all students of any race to visit a museum like this,” she said. “I think it is super important, and the museum isn’t set up for experts. It’s set up for everyone to understand the black experience.”

She said the unique appearance of the building and its location adds an interesting twist to the national mall.

“It is right next to the Washington Monument,” she said. “The juxtaposition of a very tall white building right next to a stout dark brown building is brilliant. There is a monument of a white slave owner right next to the very image of the people he owned.”

Of the many exhibits in the museum, one in particular stood out to Anderson.

“Nat Turner’s Bible was especially compelling.” Anderson said, “It is very relevant because of the new film [about Turner], ‘The Birth of a Nation.’ The Bible was very prevalent in his rebellion, because he believed that God was telling him to revolt through the Bible.”

Sarina Chatman, an Africana studies minor at YSU, said she was impressed by the ways the museum taught visitors about black history.

“It incorporated black and African history, and I have never experienced both of those attributes in a museum before,” Chatman said. “It was very emotional, but seeing our culture of music and art made me proud to be black.”

Chatman agreed with Anderson that all students should give themselves a chance to visit the museum.

“Every race, including blacks, need to learn about black history and culture.” Chatman said, “A lot of people are uneducated, and this leads to them feeling apathy and ignorance towards an entire race. We talk about diversity all the time, but yet we know nothing about others history or culture.”

Sydney Jones, a criminal justice major at YSU, said the most unique part of the museum was the just that it was specifically focused on black history.

“A few of us went to the Smithsonian Museum of American History afterward, and they only had one little section dedicated to African American history,” Jones said. “Many history lessons don’t incorporate a lot African American history. It was really refreshing to see an entire museum dedicated to highlighting what we’ve all been deprived of learning.”