Madeira Visits The National Museum of African American History and Culture

November 16, 2016
Our hosts, Heather Muir Kirby '77 and Jim Johnson

Nearly 700 from the Madeira community attended a private event at the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the evening of November 14, 2016. Madeira Board Vice Chair Heather Muir Kirby ‘77 and longtime Madeira supporter, Jim Johnson organized the event. Madeira would like to thank Heather and Jim for the incredible opportunity to experience the impressive museum in a private setting and for making it such a tremendous evening for all. The event allowed the girls, along with their families, teachers and alumnae to experience the museum after hours, giving them the chance to absorb the museum’s content surrounded by friends and family. The NMAAHC opened in September and has been so popular that tickets have been difficult to obtain.

The museum provides an incredibly detailed history of African American life and culture. Its artifacts, exhibits, and films are thoughtfully arranged to provide visitors with a message that is powerful. The History exhibits, tracing African American life from the 1400’s up to Obama’s inauguration, are set on the four levels below ground and offer an accurate, often painful look at the time. The upper three floors are much more celebratory in feel, depicting a post- Civil rights look at African American contributions to culture, sports, music and history.

Students, parents, alumnae, and staff were all impressed by the museum’s wealth of information, its ability to tell a compelling story, and the range of emotion it provoked.

Please see some responses below from students and parents.

Millenah Nascimento '17

“To be able to experience the NMAAHC together with the students and adults of the Madeira community is something I will never forget. As I walked through the museum, history came alive and I was taken aback by so much the world has been ignorant of, but it sparked a fire in me, a realization that my generation, we are next. It is our turn to write history, to continue the fight that so many have already fought, and to be the change that our world has yearned so long to see.” 

Sinclaire Jones ‘17

“I am so very grateful that my entire school was able to visit the museum, especially as an African American student. It’s one thing to sit in class and discuss with your classmates of all different cultures and backgrounds and talk about the history of African American culture. It can sometimes feel that despite what we’re learning people still don’t really acknowledge the history or the strife my people underwent. To be able to see my classmates witness everything we learned in class and more and walk through the centuries of hardship and extraordinary achievements despite it was incredible. It was even more gratifying to discuss the visit in class the next day and listen to how much of an eye-opening experience the museum was for them. I feel a sense of comfort knowing that my whole school was able to experience my history.”

Emily Hamilton ‘17

“Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity. I think that this museum is a really special place. The time and effort that went into creating something so informative yet filled with emotion was evident throughout all of the exhibits. I especially enjoyed the 4th floor music exhibit, and the graphics of the room you first step into when entering the exhibit. To be surrounded by the voices, videos, and sounds of those who have contributed so much to musical history was a powerful moment. I wish I had more time to enjoy and absorb all of the history the museum offered.”

Nandi Ndoro ‘16

“I loved visiting NMAAHC! My favorite part of the visit was seeing the Black Power (1950s-1970s) exhibit downstairs. I loved learning about the origins of the Black Power movement and notable Black Panthers. It was truly amazing seeing a museum dedicated to my own culture and history.”

Liana Song ‘17

“First, thank you so much for inviting me as a whole Madeira community. It really was an honor to be in such historical moment. 2-hour journey wasn't enough for me because that only allowed me to go through the first three levels where the main contents were focused on slavery, segregation, and resistance movements. But as an international student from Korea, this trip allowed me to go through sorrowful but strong African American history, people's struggle, spirit. The plethora of information with all those historical evidence was so vivid that I felt like I experienced the real life in those time periods. I cannot pick the best because everything was just amazing, but if you make me so, I will pick the place (I think it was C2) where it showed the video of speeches from Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, Malcolm X, and other black people.”

Grace Hill ‘16

“It was amazing to see how the museum transitioned from focusing on the oppression of African Americans at the bottom of the museum to moving upwards to see how the culture could grow and flourish. It was eye opening to see history though another culture’s eyes.”

Cyan Perdue ‘17

“I loved that we got to go there.  But in general at museum I loved the set up. How creative it was for the museum to be designed to have the hard parts of black history below and the powerful and empowering sections at the top to show that African Americans have prevailed even through all their struggle. Walking through the museum by myself gave me time to actually absorb everything that I saw and I had such a range of emotions starting with sadness and ending with empowerment and I think that is a very important note.”

Callie Jacks ‘17

“I loved the visual arts section because it showed multiple genres of visual art from different time periods. It was well curated and it clearly told the story of African American lives and culture. It was really moving. I was really touched by feeling of hope that the museum left me with.”

 Soleil Ephraim ‘17

“I thought that the museum was incredible and a part that really stuck out to me was the Emmett Till exhibition. I felt overwhelmed with feelings of grief but was also very appreciative that this section was on display because it's so important for everyone to know about his case.”

 Michael Kramer and Jennifer Mendenhall P '18

"I was struck by the brilliant narrative of the building itself: the boat-like tiers of the structure, the grilles and iron bars, and the many ways to ascend, via stairs, ramps, escalators and elevators. They all tell part of the story of African American heritage. The exhibits detailing the ugly history of slavery are rightly buried below ground, in the close confines of the earth; the ascent to achievement, struggle, contribution, success, and creativity, sweeps past broad windows, through lofty-ceilinged halls, into circular spaces that are inviting and embracing. One piece that our daughter particularly liked, was a colorful sculptural piece, narrow pieces all entangled in a joyful cluster. My husband pointed to the description on the plaque. The artist was inspired by the sight of a tree, used for lynching people, whose neck ties were hung on the branches as a warning to others. The bitter kernel, and the power of creative transformation. Most striking of all, to me, are the security guards: all of them African American, all of them part of the history illuminated in this museum, living reminders of the past and the future, and gracious hosts. I spoke to many of the guards, and listened to them talk about the beauty of the museum, about the art, about how wonderful and right it is that this history be given such an appropriate space. Thank you so much for giving students and parents the opportunity to visit this beautiful museum. Our deep, deep gratitude to Ms. Kirby and Mr. Johnson and all those at Madeira who organized this splendid event."