Slavery is something no one wants to talk about. It’s such a shameful time in our history, but it cannot be ignored. The enslavement of Africans for hundreds of years divided a nation where people were bought and sold, and brought about the Civil War which pitted brother against brother.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is expected to open in 2015 with an exhibit to tell the story of slavery in America. It’s an uncomfortable subject and will be a challenge to tell that story but it needs to be done. Lonnie Bunch, a historian and the museum’s director said, “So much of our history is in the basements, attics and trunks of people.
Years have been spent collecting artifacts and stories that have been passed down through the generations. It has been a huge undertaking. Slavery shaped our nation , industry, and our culture. It ripples through history like waves on the ocean. It’s time to acknowledge the facts.
Collected fliers depict the buying and selling of slaves at auctions in the middle of Washington D.C., the scar whipped backs of runaway slaves and the whips and shackles that were used, some small enough for a child. Nancy Bercaw, an associate curator on the political division at the National Museum of American History said, “One quarter of those in slavery were children, uncomfortable as the facts might be, it defines the history of African Americans.”
Other artifacts are bills of sale, with descriptions of men and women identified by their first names, with slave buttons marked with the owners name. There’s also a bible belonging to Nat Turner, who led the slave rebellion in 1831 killing 50 whites, but in rturn more than twice as many slaves were killed.
Contributions will be shown that blacks have made to the American society, public service, fashion, arts and more. Included in the exhibit will be a training plane by the Tuskegee Airmen in World War 11, a silk shawl given to slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman by Queen Victoria, and Michael Jackson’s black felt fedora. The museum also took on Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and slave owner of Sally Heming, who he fathered children by.
Bunch left his job as director of the Chicago Historical Society in 2005 to be the founding director of the new museum which is part of the Smithsonian complex of museums and galleries. Bunch had a staff of two and said he had no idea how to began and not one single item in the collection. Now he had 90 people working with him, and has collected over 20,000 artifacts.