Sunday, April 30, 2017
One of the Best Things I've Ever Seen
What you can see of the building from the outside is only about half of the space. The History Galleries are all below ground. So the museum is far larger than it appears.
When you enter, you take an escalator or stairs down to the concourse level and from there, you get into a large (room-sized) elevator to go to the very bottom level. Then, you make your way back up to the concourse by walking through African-American history. I'll be honest, it's not always an easy trip. The beginning is especially intense; it's the slave ships. The horrors can make you doubt the basic decency of humanity, and the exhibits are (I believe deliberately) cramped and dark.
Then, we have the years of slavery. The image that stayed with me was of a woman, put up for sale, who was beaten until her infant was wrenched from her grasp, so that the child could be sold separately. Even now, I find it hard to discuss; there are some things for which I have no words.
After the Civil War, there is segregation, and the Civil Rights movement, and the final decades of the 20th century, when African-Americans began to appear more frequently, and as real characters (as opposed to caricatures) in popular culture. Finally, there is the inauguration of Barack Obama, and I'm not someone who gets choked up easily, but I felt a catch in my throat.
Back on the concourse level, I headed to the restaurant. This is not to be missed. Set up in stations (like the restaurant at American Indian), I opted for the friend chicken and macaroni and cheese. This entailed a wait in line, but it was worth every minute - so delicious. When I go back, I'll get something else, but only because I'd like to try other offerings, not out of any dissatisfaction with what I had.
Above ground are the Culture Galleries, which I decided to skip. I was exhausted, having spent two solid hours, mostly on my feet. I will tackle them next time, for sure.
My advice: get tickets for as early in the day as possible - there's lots to see. Wear the most comfortable pair of shoes you own. Go to the restaurant.
Verdict: Simply amazing.