Education

Tickets for African-American Museum Still Tough to Get

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The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s plans to increase the limited number of walkup tickets that are available each morning are now on hold for the foreseeable future, according to a museum spokeswoman.

Those plans are “still in the works” and officials are unsure when the number of daily walkup tickets might be expanded, the spokesman, Linda St. Thomas, told WTOP.

However, showing up in person is still the best way for getting into the museum without obtaining a ticket beforehand.

Free, timed-entry tickets into the museum on the National Mall are all claimed through March. Chances to get tickets for April through June are expected to be announced soon. Currently, a limited number of same-day tickets are made available at the museum each morning beginning at 9:15 a.m. with a line forming on the Constitution Avenue side of the building.

The museum, which opened in September to much fanfare with a host of celebrities including President Barack Obama, honors many black heroes such asMartin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), a civil rights leader who worked for decades in Congress trying to gather the support for the museum.

President George W. Bush signed legislation approving the project in 2003, and museum Director Lonnie Bunch and a staff of three began shaping the vision of what’s now a 400,000-square-foot, $540 million building with exhibits, sculptures, paintings, artifacts and other priceless historic treasures.

An earlier media tour was held where officials encouraged the press to start their tour from the bottom level because the museum is ordered chronologically.

It begins with a statute of President Thomas Jefferson in front of 609 bricks, which represents the number of slaves he owned.

The galleries below the Winfrey auditorium are dedicated to some of the darkest chapters in American history and the worst injustice ever faced by African-Americans.

Ramps connect the small galleries that reveal the evils of the Atlantic slave trade, the Colonial era, up through the Civil War. Materials and photographs show lynchings and items include a shawl worn by Harriet Tubman, the escaped slave and abolitionist who created the Underground Railroad.

There’s also the coffin of Emmett Till, the black Chicago teenager who was killed in 1955 in Mississippi for looking at a white woman. Till’s death sparked the civil rights movement.

“It blows my mind. Down here is the worst period the world has ever known and I have tears every time,” said Vincent Penn, a supervising engineer with Kensington Glass, the company contracted by the museum to perform glass work.

Penn, a white man, said the reactions of everyone strike him.

“Whether you’re black or white or whatever, you cannot come through here and not cry,” he said. “I was here when Oprah Winfrey came and visited and she stood [on a walkway above her auditorium] and her expression said it all. She could hardly contain herself.”

But the museum isn’t all about the dark history and the evils of slavery.

African-American businesses are celebrated, as is the black media. Ebony magazine and the Freedom Journal, the first African-American newspaper, are featured in exhibits.

Entertainers and sports figures such as Redd Foxx, Michael Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Jordan and Jackie Robinson are also highlighted with exhibits, artifacts and donated items.

Jackson’s famous fedora that he wore during his 1984 “Victory” concert tour is on display, as are Chuck Berry’s cherry red El Dorado and a special section dedicated to Muhammad Ali.

“Our country will gain a further understanding of what it means to be an American,” said Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton. “It’s a beacon that reminds us of what we were, what challenges we still face and what we can become,” he said.

To reserve a free timed pass, visit https://nmaahc.si.edu/visit/passes.

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Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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