In order to have a strong sense of self, you must know where you come from. That is why, when the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in Washington, D.C. this past September, I was extremely excited.

I was fortunate to get a pass for the grand opening but the lines were so long that I only was able to be in the museum for about two hours before it closed. The museum is packed full of information and content. You can’t possibly take it all in within that time period. So I was determined to go back and see the entire museum. There is one problem… There is such a high demand to see the museum that passes have been reserved for every day until March and I was not able to reserve any of my own.  Clearly, I am not the only one excited about this museum.

So when my mother came from North Carolina to visit, I really wanted to share the experience of visiting the museum with her. After perusing the website, I found out about the option of obtaining the same day pass when the museum opens at 9:15 AM. So we woke up at 6:30 AM the next morning and drove an hour to Washington, D.C. to try our luck at obtaining the same day pass. We arrived about 45 minutes before the museum was scheduled to open and the line for the same-day passes was wrapped around the building.

So as you may have guessed, they ran out of same-day passes before we reached the front of the line. So much for having an amazing cultural experience with my mother who was only visiting for the weekend. Then as we were walking away, a lady who we had made friends with while waiting in line recommended that we try to ask around and see if anyone who had reserved passes in advance had any extra tickets to spare. This seemed like a long shot and I must admit, I didn’t like the idea of walking up to strangers asking for some extra passes. It felt a little like I was panhandling, “Umm, can you spare some extra change passes?”

But thankfully, my mother was once again the real MVP and went for it. We found a nice couple standing near the entrance and believe it or not they had TWO extra passes. It was a miracle because I honestly did not think we were going to find anyone willing to spare not only one pass for but. Also, the passes were timed for 9:30 which meant we would have the whole day to see the whole museum. Everything worked out amazingly!

So, let’s discuss the museum itself. It is MAGNIFICENT. The exterior is stunning and a photographer’s dream from every angle. The museum was designed to take you on a journey from slavery to now as you work your way up from the lowest level to the top. The lowest level is noticeably cramped and moving through it can be a bit difficult given the amount of people touring the exhibit at one time. I was surprised to learn that this was purposeful and designed to evoke feelings of being on a slave ship traveling through the middle passage. As you make your way up to the next level, you feel space open up. The floors that follow depict life during slavery, reconstruction, segregation and civil rights era. The highest floor showcases the many aspects of African American Culture including music, film, visual arts, and theater. My favorite aspect of the museum is all of the great quotes from important figures in African American history displayed all over the museum. I also enjoyed the reflection hall which featured an amazing waterfall and once again great quotes from Nelson Mandela, Sam Cooke, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture recently changed their system for allocating same day passes including an option to reserve passes online and have revealed future dates when prospective visitors can reserve future time passes. The full details can be found here: https://nmaahc.si.edu/visit/passes .

Please comment about your experience visiting the NMAAHC or what you hope to see when you do go visit.

Check out my pictures from the museum below: