- Museum of African American History
The opening of the Museum of African American History in Detroit, the newest and largest of the public and private institutions dedicated to the preservation of African American history and culture, sparked considerable interest in the national news media. It called national attention to important changes in the public presentation of the social, cultural and political history of Americans of African descent through film, literature, historic preservation, and museum exhibition, especially in the last decade. While scholars have explored the tragic story of the Diaspora and its complex legacy for some time, broad public willingness to seek out accounts of the historical “bad news” of American race relations seems relatively new, and one can only speculate about what its effects may be for the long term.
Because the Museum of African American History raises so many interesting issues associated with the “ownership” of historical narratives, exhibition practice and representation, and the public airing of the complicated and shifting cultural politics (and just-plain-old politics) of African American communities, I decided that more than one voice was needed in any critical review of the new museum to be published by American Quarterly. Hence this experiment, a pair of linked reviews on the same institution and its permanent exhibition.