Smithsonian NMAAHC exhibition shows how African Americans made a way out of no way

Making a way out of no way exhibition

WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- "Despite the obstacles from slavery to segregation to discrimination and sometimes life threatening situations, people still made lives and could be successful," says Michele Gates Moresi.

It was familiar saying by African Americans during those challenging periods in our nation's history:  "Making a Way Out of No Way."  Moresi curated the exhibition that encapsulates the struggle.

"People don't just stop or freeze or roll over.  They continue to build homes, create organizations and open businesses," she says.

And, even build schools.  From 1925 to 1954 parents pooled their resources, with help from the Julius Rosenwald Fund, to send their children to the Hope School in South Carolina.  In states like Virginia, some districts closed their schools rather than enroll black children.

Moresi says, "We looked at the various ways that people were taking political action.  Protesting, striking and demanding from their communities that the law step up and be enforced."

When that change was off in the distance, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, groups like the Prince Hall Masons and black Greek fraternities and sororities were there to push for social change. 

Curator Moresi says these organizations played an important role in the lives of African Americans from the early 1900's to the present day.  

"One of the mottos that's presented in the exhibition in the beginning is 'lifting as we climb'."  So, it really talks about the mutual support and the skills that they developed, the leadership skills and service organizations," Moresi says.

Every wall and every display in this exhibition hall showcases how African Americans overcame the harsh and brutal times of segregation to survive and make a way.  

It's a history curators at the National Museum of African American History and Culture hope visitors will be able to feel and relate to once they walk through its doors.  And, a place to reflect on where they stand now.

"This is a museum for the world, particularly, for the nation.  The African American experience is quintessential to what the American experience means.  And, so, I want people to feel connected to these stories. 

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture opens September 24, 2016.


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