The last time I went to visit Matt in Washington, D.C. was back in September. I hadn’t been to the capital since middle school, so we had a great time exploring his new city. We started with a tour of the Newseum, definitely one of my favorites. Then, we proceeded to visit the National Museums of American History (to see the First Lady exhibition) and Natural History (hello, Hope diamond). We joined in on the festivities celebrating the grand opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and we tried a few recommended restaurants. We walked to all the memorials near the National Mall and, on my last day, the sun came out, illuminating the Reflecting Pool and Tidal Basin. D.C. was teeming with energy the entire weekend and I left feeling rejuvenated.
I loved experiencing a new city with so much history.
Since Matt was back several times for the holidays, there weren’t many opportunities to travel out to D.C. before the new year. Finally, last weekend, I flew back east. This time, I got out there on Wednesday instead of taking the red eye out Thursday night. SUCH a good call. As efficient as the red eye is, it was less stressful to arrive mid-week.
It was another great trip. Since Matt had work Thursday and Friday, I took the chance to explore a bit of Arlington. On Thursday, I walked to the Arlington Cemetery, which was a little farther than I anticipated. The weather was really temperamental (hailing one second and winding the next), but I was so happy I did it. The cemetery and nearby memorials impress all visitors, especially this one! Friday was a little slower (I think my jet-lag caught up with me), but wonderful nonetheless.
I have to say that Saturday was the best day.
Not only was it my and Matt’s one full day together, but we snagged passes to check out the new National Museum of African American History and Culture! I started that morning catching up with a friend from Davis at Kramerbooks (such a cool spot). Matt joined me later and we grabbed lunch before heading to the museum.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture was incredibly powerful – beautifully designed and planned. The history galleries told a story, beginning with slavery in the basement of the museum, three floors underground. The layout guided visitors up to the next floor above, each depicting a different time in history. Following slavery was the era and struggle of segregation and, the final gallery, recounted the events of 1968 through today.
The collection of artifacts and stories was overwhelming. There were chains used on ships during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, an auction block, Nat Turner’s bible, Harriet Tubman’s shawl from Queen Victoria… As we rose upward from the basement, each floor was a little brighter, reflecting the increasing freedom and light in African American history over time.
Upstairs were the culture galleries. Matt and I were enthralled by the music and film-focused exhibitions. Even though we were emotionally and physically exhausted after the history tour, we stayed a little longer to admire the artifacts of some of our favorite musicians.
I loved how intentional everything was. The collection of letters, photographs, and artifacts gave visitors a real glimpse inside the lives of African Americans throughout American history. Walking through the museum, I felt deep sadness for all of the pain and suffering, but also absolute admiration for the resilience and optimism of African Americans in our country. It was a moving experience and a great way to celebrate Black History Month. After reading about the Loving couple in one of the galleries, I watched the new movie recently released about the interracial couple on my flight home – so emotional. I highly recommend it to everyone. I did some follow-up research and attest that it is extremely well done. The film beautifully illustrates the pain the Lovings unjustly endured for the sake of their love and family.
I believe this new museum is one of the must-sees in D.C. The galleries do a beautiful and thorough job explaining the key role African Americans played in the history of this country. It is a wonderful tribute to African American and, in turn, American history.