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The Pilgrimage

Our Nation’s Capital for Freedom Riders

Mission Of African-American Museum

The building rises — bronze and "brooding," in the words of architect David Adjaye — floating in a sea of white marble and limestone on the sprawling National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The mission of the National Museum of African American History and Culture — set to open to the public next week after a 100-year journey into existence — is to tell the story of America through the lens of black history and culture.​

That mission is reflected in the exhibits and encapsulated in a Langston Hughes quote featured inside the museum: "I, too, am America."

It's also reflected in the location and design of the building itself.

Architect David Adjaye is the lead designer of the project. The Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup won the competition to design the museum in 2003.

Lara Hartzenbusch/NPR

The 400,000-square-foot museum fills the last open spot along the National Mall, the magisterial public walk envisioned by Pierre Charles L'Enfant in 1791 as a place for all Americans, a landscape celebrating the country's democracy.

Sitting adjacent to the Washington Monument, the museum is on an axis with nearly every important memorial and museum in the city. And that location — which Adjaye, the British-Ghanaian lead designer of the project, refers to as a crossroads or "joint" of D.C.'s "monumental landscape" — helped inform the design.

"We're at the knuckle between one world, which is the Washington Memorial grounds, and the Mall proper, which is very manicured — double alley trees, landscapes, palaces of culture," Adjaye explains during a tour of the nearly completed museum last week. "This is a building that can't be that or that, but has to be somewhere between the two ... has to be something that also has its own completely significant identity."

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This trip includes: FRIDAY TO TUESDAY

⦁     Motorcoach transportation 
⦁    4 nights lodging 
⦁    8 meals including: 4 breakfasts 4 dinners 
⦁    Guided Tour of Washington, DC including the WW II Memorial, Capitol Hill, Embassy Row, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and more!
⦁    Admission to the Museum of the Bible
⦁    Full Day Visit to the National Museum of African American History & Culture

The best way to view the museum — the way it was intended to be experienced, says Adjaye — is to start at the bottom, some 70 feet underground, in the history galleries.

The three-leveled space is cavernous — Adjaye calls it a crypt or vault — and visitors ascend via gently sloping ramps. The exhibits are arranged to reflect that journey upward: starting from Africa and the darkness of the Middle Passage and slavery to the present day, literally rising through the decades of history.

This was critical, that you really were seeing, in this gallery, the arc of the contribution and the struggle and the difficulty and the triumph of the African-American community.

David Adjaye, British-Ghanaian architect and lead designer of the NMAAHC

"That's the symbolism of the triple tier," Adjaye explains. "There are the lower basement galleries and then the upper two basement galleries. But also the narrative of the agrarian beginnings, the migration to the cities, and the integration into the society is the triptych of the story."

The "compression of history" — represented by a slave cabin from a 19th-century plantation in Edisto Island, S.C., through two centuries to artifacts and images from President Obama's inauguration — is an artwork itself, Adjaye says.

"This was critical, that you really were seeing, in this gallery, the arc of the contribution and the struggle and the difficulty and the triumph of the African-American community," he says.

As visitors move up through the museum, emerging from the darkness and into the lightness of the above-ground galleries, the subject matter turns lighter and more joyous, too: topics such as African-American communities, food, art, literature, music and contributions to business, science, sports and the military.

Trip Itinerary:

Day 1: Depart your group's location in a spacious video and restroom equipped motorcoach as you head for your destination: Washington, D.C. our National Capital! Later that day, enjoy a relaxing Dinner and check into your Washington, D.C. area hotel for a four night stay.

Day 2: Enjoy a Continental Breakfast before departing for a full-day Guided Tour of Washington, D.C. Some of the awe-inspiring sights on this fantastic tour will include the US Capitol, the White House, the National Archives, Embassy Row, and Georgetown. During the day, you will see the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, and several War Memorials. This evening, enjoy Dinner at a local restaurant before continuing on the Guided Memorial and Monuments Tour.

Day 3: Enjoy a Continental Breakfast before departing for a Full Day visit to the Smithsonian Institution.  In addition, you will also experience the National Museum of African American History & Culture.  Later, you'll enjoy Dinner with entertainment before returning to your hotel for the night.

Day 4: Enjoy a Continental Breakfast before heading to the Museum of the Bible. Discover the history, narrative and impact the Bible has played in our world’s history. From the 40 foot tall bronze doors at the museum’s entrance, to the roof-top garden, explore over six floors of exhibits that span the time, space and cultures of the Bible. With over 40,000 items, the Museum of the Bible’s collection contains some of the oldest and most important biblical artifacts and documents in human history. This evening, enjoy a relaxing Dinner and return to your hotel.

Day 5: Today, after enjoying a Continental Breakfast, you will depart for home... a perfect time to chat with your friends about all the fun things you’ve done, the great sights you’ve seen, and where your next group trip will take you!
 

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