The African-American Civil Rights Museum has finally found a new home.
During the past 12 years, the museum has moved three times, but organizers are hopeful that its new location in the annex of the Grimke Building (formerly a school) at 1925 Vermont Ave. N.W. in Washington, D.C., will last.
On July 18, as part of a three-day celebration, a dedication was held at the facility.
Fittingly, the museum is located directly across the street from the African American Civil War Memorial, a nine-foot bronze sculpture dedicated to the 209,145 African-American soldiers and sailors who served the Union in the Civil War. Panels around “The Spirit of Freedom” sculpture bear the names of those who served.
The museum’s exhibits are arranged around the theme “Glorious March to Liberty: Civil War to Civil Rights” with displays of documents, artifacts, artillery, photographs, newspaper articles and replicas of clothing related to the people and events leading up to, through and following the Civil War. Among the exhibit are:
• Freedom Fighters
• A Military Necessity
• A House Divided
• Union Forces Falter
• A Soldiers Duty
• Temporarily in the Hall of Government
In one exhibit there’s a bill of sale from 1834 for the $600 payment for a enslaved girl and a letter of complaint from 1854 about a newly acquired enslaved woman who was called “defective property” because she was too sick to perform duties. A refund was demanded.
Quotes, displayed prominently throughout the museum, give voice to attitudes held by various historical figures of that time such as this one from General Benjamin Butler:
“Better soldiers never shouldered a musket…They were intelligent, highly appreciate of their position and fully maintained in dignity. They easily learned the school of the soldier.”
Hari Jones, curator of the museum, said the venue “attempts to tell the stories from the perspective of African Americans that made the history. I want them to appreciate this is a story of American freedom fighters.”
He added that they also try to dispel information that individuals think are factual but aren’t and are propaganda.
Jones pointed out that the belief held by some that Juneteenth is when slaves in Texas learned of emancipation is incorrect. Instead of simply telling people that’s wrong, he prefers to provide them with sources where they can read for themselves that information had made its way to the Lone Star state in a timely manner.
Jones pointed out that African Americans were called upon to serve when it became clear that the Union couldn’t win the war without them. The Colored Troops were often deployed to the front lines because of their skill and effectiveness in battle, according to Jones, noting several key victories thanks to their efforts.
The African American Civil War Memorial is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. There is no cost to visit the museum, however, donations are accepted.
For more information, visit www.afroamcivilwar.org.