National Museum of African American History and Culture


The National Museum of African American History and Culture is a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience, what it means to their lives, and how it helped us shape this nation.


Harriet Tubman’s hymnal; Nat Turner’s bible; A plantation cabin from South Carolina; Guard tower from Angola Prison; Michael Jackson’s fedora; and works by prolific artists such as Charles Alston, Elizabeth Catlett, Romare Bearden, and Henry O. Tanner.

Family on plantation near Savannah, Georgia, late 1800s. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Make Good the Promises: Reconstruction and Its Legacies is a 4,300-square-foot exhibition exploring the Reconstruction era through an African American lens. It features more than 175 objects, 300 images, and 14 media programs. The exhibition explores the deep divisions and clashing visions about how to rebuild the nation after slavery. It connects that era to today’s efforts to make good on the promises of the Constitution.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, more than 4 million newly freed African Americans struggled to define themselves as equal citizens—to own land, to vote, to work for fair wages, build safe communities, educate themselves, and to rebuild families torn apart by slavery. Their aim during this period of Reconstruction was to live in a nation that kept the promises laid out in the U.S. Constitution. Black men were granted voting rights and were elected to political offices including seats in the U.S. Congress, Black families acquired land and started farms, and communities built churches and schools. But not everyone celebrated the end of slavery. Many responded with violence ranging from unlawful incarceration and voter intimidation to lynching and mass shootings.

Historians regard the Reconstruction era, from 1865 to 1877, as one of the least-understood periods in American history and a period filled with contradictions. Despite the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, which outlawed slavery, granted citizenship, and gave Black men the right to vote, racially motivated violence was prevalent and unfair labor practices created the system of sharecropping.

In March of 1865, Congress created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau. This federal agency operated in 15 states throughout the South to help the newly freed acquire land, reunite with their families, and establish schools, including a number of historically Black colleges and universities including Fisk, Howard, Morehouse, and Spelman. But the Freedmen’s Bureau was abolished in less than seven years and the Freedmen’s Bank allowed to fail. Gains African Americans made during Reconstruction were rolled back after white supremacists regained control of southern state governments through voter suppression and intimidation.

The exhibition is presented with a companion book, Make Good the Promises: Reclaiming Reconstruction and Its Legacies.

Dress sewn by Rosa Parks

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Object Details

Created by Rosa Parks, American, 1913 – 2005

Subject of Black Fashion Museum, American,

1979 – 2007

Description This dress (a) is a wrap style made from a plain weave viscose fabric with a printed design of dark brown and yellow flowers and leaves. The wrap effect is achieved by crossing the front bodice at the waist seam and gathered fabric on the proper left side of the waist. The skirt is flared with six (6) gores and three pleats in the skirt at the center front add further to the wrap effect. The set-in full length sleeves are gathered at a 1 1/4″ cuff that closes with two metal snaps.

The dress has a small shawl collar and a v-neck. The dress closes at the proper left side waist with a zipper. It is unlined, and the seams are pressed open with raw edges exposed. It is machine-sewn except for the hem, which is turned up 2 inches and hand stitched. There are two belt loops made of a thin yellow braid, one at each side seam, which hold the accompanying belt (b) in place.The belt (b) is made from the same fashion fabric as the dress, with a plain weave beige fabric backing.

The front and back of the belt are machine stitched around the edge, and a layer of interfacing between them provides some stiffening. The belt has an oval-shaped metal single-prong buckle covered in the dark brown and yellow floral fabric, and five (5) white grommets on the opposite end of the belt for an adjustable closure.Credit LineCollection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture,

Gift of the Black Fashion Museum founded by Lois K. Alexander-Lane 1955 – 1956 Object number 2007.3.1ab Restrictions & Rights No Known Copyright Restrictions Type dresses Medium synthetic fiber and metal Dimensions H x W x D: 47 1/2 × 16 3/4 × 1 1/4 in. (120.7 × 42.5 × 3.2 cm)Chest: 40 in. (101.6 cm)Waist: 28 1/4 in. (71.8 cm)Hem circumference: 78 in. (198.1 cm)Belt: 2 3/4 × 33 1/4 × 3/8 in. (7 × 84.5 × 1 cm)Place made Montgomery, Alabama, United States, North and Central America See more items in National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection Collection title Black Fashion Museum Collection Classification Clothing-Historical Movement Civil Rights Movement Exhibition Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation, 1876-1968 On View NMAAHC (1400 Constitution Ave NW), National Mall Location, Concourse 2, C 2053 National Museum of African American History and Culture Topic African American American South Civil Rights Clothing and dress Resistant Segregation.S. History, 1953-1961 Urban life Women Record IDnmaahc_2007.3.1ab Metadata Usage (text)CC0GUID (Link to Original Record)

Trumpet owned by Louis Armstrong

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Object Details

Created by Henri Selmer

Paris, French, founded 1885 Vincent Bach Corporation,

American, founded 1918 Owned by Louis Armstrong, American,

1901 – 1971

Caption This 1946 Henri Selmer B-flat custom-made and inscribed trumpet belonged to Louis Armstrong. Armstrong had been playing an earlier version of a Selmer trumpet since 1932. Even though he believed you could play a trumpet for a long time, he had the habit of playing his trumpets for approximately five years before he passed it on as a gift to a friend or colleague. In February 1946, Armstrong’s manager and close friend, Joe Glaser, wrote to Selmer Instrument Company and asked for a new trumpet custom-made for Armstrong’s use.

Selmer agreed and presented him with this inscribed Selmer B-flat trumpet. This personally inscribed trumpet was made only for Armstrong and was not mass produced.Description brass trumpet with mouthpiece and case. The trumpet has a Henri Selmer Paris inscription near the bell and valve case, and “Louis Armstrong” is engraved on the leadpipe.Credit LineCollection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture September 1946 Object number 2008.16.1-.3 Restrictions & Right No Known Copyright Restrictions Type musical instruments trumpets

Medium brass Dimensions H x W: 5 3/4 x 21 7/8 x 4 3/4 in. (14.6 x 55.6 x 12.1 cm)See more items in National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection Classification Musical Instruments National Museum of African American History and Culture Topics African American Jazz (Music)Record IDnmaahc_2008.16.1-.3 Metadata Usage (text)CC0GUID (Link to Original Record)

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