Friday, December 17, 2021

National Museum of African American History & Culture & BLM Plaza

High on our to do list for this Washington, DC visit was the Smithsonian  National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum, the Smithsonian's newest, opened in 2016 and celebrates A people's journey, a nations story.
The building is unique in design compared to the other museums and government buildings in the city. 
The lead designer was David Adjaye, the son of a Ghanaian diplomat who has traveled to all 54 independent African nations. It's use of the three tiered facade is inspired by the work of 20th century Yoruban craftsman Olowe while the metal work pays homage to the enslaved and free African Americans who crafted the metal work on buildings in Louisiana, South Carolina and elsewhere.  
The building has sections that feature culture and community with both temporary and permanent exhibits. Here, a painting of Harriet Tubman.  
An amazing quilt depicting Harriet. 
Artist Patrick Martinez recreated Pee Chee portfolios showing those killed by acts of police brutality and social unrest. 
Breonna Taylor, who was shot by police while sleeping.
Another section of the culture galleries, Musical Crossroads, deals with music. This 1973 Eldorado Cadillac belonged to Chuck Berry. There are listening stations throughout this exhibit where you can hear the music of famous African American entertainers, many singing the songs we grew up with.  
The Taking the Stage Gallery deals with TV and stage artists. This is Pittsburgh play write August Wilson. 
The Making Way Out of No Way gallery honors those who worked for freedom and rights from before the Civil War and continues today. 
A high point being the election of the first Black president, Barack Obama, in 2008.
Rosa Parks and President Lincoln. There were also exhibits, Sports: Leveling the Playing Field and Double Victory: The African American Military Experience that we did not have time to see. 
The History Galleries start on the bottom floor with Slavery and Freedom 1400-1877 exhibit. They explain the transatlantic slave trade from their capture in Africa.... shipping the people to America aboard over crowded slave ships.
The Paradox of Liberty examines the contradictions of the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson also being a slave owner. Each of the blocks behind him represent a slave he owned.  
Elizabeth Freeman, born a slave, was a Revolutionary War widow who sued her Massachusetts owner John Ashley for her freedom based on the states constitution. Winning her claim to freedom helped end slavery in Massachusetts. 
Benjamin Banneker wrote Jefferson pointing out the contradictions that "all men were created equal" and his owning of slaves. Jefferson answered by complimenting him on his intellect, but did not free his slaves. Banneker published the correspondence in his almanacs. 
These two maps show how growing cotton expanded between 1820 and 1860. More cotton meant more slaves. While Congress banned importing slaves in 1808, illegal slave trade continued. The last slave ship is believed to be the Clotilda that was scuttled in Mobile Bay in July 1860. 
Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation 1876 - 1968 gallery deals with the post Civil War, Reconstruction , Jim Crow and the beginning of the modern civil rights movement. After the Civil War many Black only communities thrived throughout the South. Many of these were marked with violence during the Jim Crow era.
Lynching by White mobs and the KKK was used to intimidate those who prospered and spoke out for rights and freedom. Between Reconstruction and WWII more than 4,400 lynchings took place in the old confederacy. 
Another section deals with the modern (in my lifetime) civil rights movement from the end of WWII and through the 1960's. A tribute to John Lewis, one of the leaders of the Selma March and the youngest person to speak at the March on Washington.
President Johnson signing the 1965 Voting Rights Act which outlawed practices put in place by former confederate states that made it hard to impossible for Blacks to vote. 
A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond gallery deals with changes the movement has brought. Finally, in 2007 all that hard work paid off with the election of the first African American president Barack Obama. Unfortunately, today's political climate proves that progress is not always moving forward and the struggle continues.
This is a training plane used by the all Black Tuskegee Airmen who served in WWII in segregated units. Here is a video about this plane and the men who flew it. Here is a link to our post about our visit to Tuskegee that has a picture of a plane that I believe is the same one. The African American museum is well worth a visit and clearly shows the struggles and victories that have been achieved for equality but also shows how much further we still have to go.
The hotel we stayed in was by Black Lives Matter Plaza. The street was painted with those words during the 2020 demonstrations protesting the murder of George Floyd. 
The plaza became a gathering place for people so the city decided to make it permanent, spelling out the words in concrete and bricks. 
This is what it will look like when completed, a powerful message written in stone. After seeing the struggles of African Americans at the museum, it is shameful that we still have not made the progress we need to as a country.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Washington DC

We love Washington, DC and stop there every chance we get going all the way back to 1969 when we visited there for our honeymoon. The great thing about the city is that most sights are free and new exhibits and monuments are being added all the time, so there are always new encounters.
We stayed just a couple blocks from Lafayette Square and the White House. The statue in the square is President Andrew Jackson. 
I always like the protesters in the square. This group has been there for as long as I can remember. The son of a former Washington teacher was there protesting for many years. I always tried to make sure the students would talk to him when we took the seventh graders to DC.
These words from the 1st Amendment; Congress shall make no law respecting....or abridging the freedom of speech......or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. So often in DC you can see people exercising their rights to engage in this part of the 1st Amendment.
Pershing Park was dedicated in 1981 to honor General John J, Pershing who lead the American Expeditionary Force in Europe during WWI.
While the park honored Pershing, there was never a monument honoring all the Americans who served during that war. This is a work in progress with panels telling to story of their role and showing where in Western Europe the Americans fought.
The monument includes the Peace Fountain with the sculpture behind it still being completed. It is called, A Soldier's Story and depicts a soldier leaving his family, fighting in Europe and then returning home. The design of the statue had to be changed because it showed Black soldiers fighting alongside Whites, which did not happen, as the military was segregated. The helmets of the Black troops were changed to French style helmets since many served with French units.
The Hotel Harrington where I stayed many times on the seventh grade trip. It was old but well located. Unfortunately, it was where the proud boys wanted to stay, so they closed on January 6th rather than allow them to stay. 
The Smithsonian Castle and carousel on the Mall. As you can see, no crowds. Even the traffic was not bad as many federal employees are still working from home. 
It seems that any time they do renovations on the monuments and museums they have a way of turning the work site into a work of art. This is a piece called Draw the Curtain by New York based Swiss artist Nicolas Party that covers the scaffolding during the renovation of the Hirshhorn Museum. There are several women looking through the curtain as you walk around the building.
One of the newest monuments in DC, the fifth honoring a president, is the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial. Ike was the commander of the WWII D-Day attack on Nazi-occupied France and later served two terms as President from 1953 to 1961. 
He was born in Denison, Texas, the third of seven boys. When he was two his family moved to Abilene, Kansas. He grew up a "simple country boy" on a dairy farm. He lacked the money for college so when he learned the military academies where free he applied to both West Point and the Naval Academy. He was too old for the Navy but was appointed to West Point in 1911.
Ike graduated from West Point in 1915 and was station in Fort Sam Houston where he met his future wife Mamie Geneva Doud. He was noted for his organization and team building skills while serving at many posts around the world rising slowly through the ranks becoming the General of the Army in 1944. 
His greatest military achievement was June 6, 1944 when he lead the troops on D-Day, the beginning of the attack to recapture Europe from Nazi Germany. The tapestry behind the monument represents the 100 foot high cliffs at Pointe du Hoc that American forces faced when the landed on the beaches of Normandy.
Following his successes in WWII he was hired by Columbia University as president. In 1952 he was elected President and served until 1961. As President, he enforced the integration of the military, signed the 1957 Civil Rights Act and sent troops to Little Rock to assure the integration of Central High School. He was aggressive in Cold War struggles between American democracy and Soviet Union communist influence.   
One of my favorite DC museums is the National Museum of the American Indian. Unfortunately, it was closed the day we were there.
This new monument outside the museum honors those Native Americans who served in the military.
We had never been to the US Botanical Garden so we checked it out. The building was closed but the gardens were open.
Patrick Dougherty's Stickwork Sculpture was installed in 2020 as part of the 200th anniversary of the garden. It is made of willow and some invasive species that were removed from two sites in the area. It was very neat and you could walk through it.
This is as close as we got to the capitol and, at least from a distance, there is no visible damage remaining from the January 6th insurrection. The capitol is always one of my favorite places and I have visited it many times.
Seeing friends when traveling is always high on our list. We met Daniel and Milena at Lexington Lakes where his parents have a condo. When we told them we were stopping in DC they told us to give them a call. We had a great meal and a fun time getting caught up with them.
Another place we had never visited is Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens, the home of Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973). She was the heir to the Postum Cereal Company, later General Foods and was among the richest women of her time. Hillwood, which she purchased in 1955, was her spring and fall home. In the summer she went to Camp Topridge in the Adirondack Mountains. You may have heard of her winter home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach.
Hillwood, with its extensive collection of French and Russian art, was bequeathed to the city after her death. These three dimensional, life size dancing figures called Rich Soil are part of a special exhibit created by Kristine Mays. There are 29 wire sculptures throughout the gardens. 
Another special exhibit was Roaring Twenties; The Life and Style of Marjorie Merriweather Post. She and her new husband E.F. Hutton were trendsetters for the super rich during the roaring twenties. That lifestyle of excess and glamour was the basis for the novel The Great Gatsby. The exhibit includes many of her dresses and jewelry. 
The Japanese-Style Garden, one of several on the grounds. Another unique area is the dog cemetery with headstones for all her dogs.
The French Drawing Room was in the style of aristocrats' homes in the 1700's. The painted and gilt wood paneling and mantel are from Parisian homes built in that time.
The first floor library with pine paneling in the style of a 1700's British country home. On the table is a model of her yacht, Sea Cloud, which she leased to the US Navy during WWII.
The dining room where Marjorie would have elaborate gatherings using her French and Russian dinner service. For formal dinners each guest had a footman and there were different waiters for wine, meat, vegetables and bread. The table, which took 17 craftsmen in Florence, Italy a year to build, could seat up to 30 guests.
A replica of a Russian dacha. In the 1930's she accompanied her third husband, Joseph E. Davies, to the Soviet Union where he was ambassador. At that time, the Soviet government was selling the treasures it had seized from the church, the imperial family and the aristocracy. Marjorie started buying and collecting Russian art and craft works.
The Russian Sacred Arts Gallery displays many of the items she bought. These are icons from the Russian Orthodox Church.
This is the nuptial crown worn by Tsarina Alexandra in 1894 during her wedding to Nicholas II.  It was sold at Christie's London in 1927 and became part of the Post collection in 1966. It is considered the most significant imperial crown jewels outside Russia.
This gold chalice was commissioned by Catherine the Great in 1791 and was part of a communion set. 
Marjorie's bedroom is furnished with French furniture and fabric. The portrait is of two of her daughters, Adelaide and Eleanor. The case contains objects made of bloodstone, her birthstone. Of course there was a private bath, dressing room, a huge closet and safe for her jewelry. 
The rose garden is Marjorie's final resting place, her ashes are buried under the pink granite monument. Hillwood is a worthwhile visit with its many historic items and a look into how the super rich lived.
Another day, more friends. Valerie and Richard drove from their home in Charlottesville, VA for a visit. We met them our first year on the road and have met up many times over the years. 
We visited the Phillips which is celebrating 100 years with them. Unfortunately, several of the galleries were between exhibits so there was not much to see,
Part of the permanent collection is the The Migration of the Negro (now the Migration Series) done in 1940 by Jacob Lawrence. The paintings show the movement of the one million African Americans from the South to the North between 1914 and 1930.  
Lawrence was commissioned to paint 60 panels that show the change as people moved from the rural agricultural South to the urban industrial North. In 1942 the collection was sold with the odd numbered panels going to the Phillips and the even numbered to the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
No visit to the Phillips is complete for Nanc until she gets to see her favorite painting, Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party. We have a copy hanging by our dining table and Nanc often points out which of our friends she thinks each character is.
As part of the 100 years celebration, this display titled Digital Intersections was done by Daniel Canogar. He created Amalgama Phillips using 550 works from the permanent collection that liquefies in a seamless blend of melted imagery. Here is the link to the YouTube video of the work. While some of the galleries were not open, any visit to the Phillips is well worth your time.
This special display on the Mall is a field of white flags, one for every person who has died of Covid 19. Sadly, that number continues to increase with nearly 89,000 deaths since we were there in September. GET THE DAMN SHOT!!!!!!

It also shows how far behind I am with the blog. I have another post about DC, our visits to the Outer Banks and Myrtle Beach, our trip to Punta Cana and what we have been up to here in Stuart.
Stay safe and healthy during the upcoming holiday season.