After my second trip to Washington, D.C., I’m more convinced than ever that every American should make an effort to visit the capital city at some point in their lifetime – the sooner, the better. Time spent in this unique city provides U.S. citizens endless opportunities to better understand their heritage, their responsibilities, and the immense privilege that comes with calling this country home. Perhaps the best thing about Washington, D.C. is that you can get all of that without spending a dime on admission fees. Read More »
As we celebrate Martin Luther King day throughout the United States, it’s a good time to reflect on the struggles and contributions of African Americans throughout the history of our nation. Washington D.C., with its rich history, is a great place to learn about the legacy of slavery and the contributions of African Americans to our great nation, including watershed events such as Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” at the Lincoln Memorial, which furthered the cause of Civil Rights in this nation.
Although there are several historical sites and monuments such as the Frederick Douglass National Historical Site, The Anacostia Museum, and The African American Civil War Museum which are dedicated exclusively to African American history, there is also much learn about this subject throughout this Capitol City and the surrounding communities. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
A short drive from Washington DC., George Washington’s estate was also a working plantation with a large staff of slaves. Mount Vernon represents plantation life through it’s slave village and other exhibits. Detailed signs help my son and I understand how slaves lived and worked on the plantation. Their “wages” (very limited shoes and clothing that did not withstand the hard labor that slaves performed for their masters) were particularly interesting. A living history actor dressed up as Washington’s African American manservant shared about his responsibilities and social status with my son.
Washington’s ambivalence about slavery is described in detail; His will freed Washington’s personal slaves upon his wife Martha Washington’s death. The slave memorial just outside Washington’s tomb is one of the most touching places in Mount Vernon.
The Smithsonian Museum of American History
Although the African American experience is reflected throughout the Museum of American History, a must visit exhibit is the Greensboro Woolworth Lunch Counter from the site of the first lunch counter sit in during the civil rights movement. Seeing the lunch counter in person was very moving for me and the exhibit was a great starting point for sharing the history of the Civil Rights Movement with my son.
The International Spy Museum
Two exhibits featuring African American Women really stood out for me as I toured The International Spy Museum. Although we tend to think of Harriet Tubman in terms of her work with the underground railroad, she also was an effective spy during the Civil War and instrumental in persuading slaves to leave their masters and fight for the Union cause. If you have a child who wants to learn more about Tubman’s daring escapades, Harriet Tubman Secret Agent: How Daring Slaves and Free Blacks Spied for the Union During the Civil War can be purchased in the Spy Museum Gift Shop as well as in your local book store.
Just past the exhibit on Tubman tucked away in a hall is a fascinating exhibit on Josephine Baker, an American singer and dancer, spy for the French Resistance, and American Civil Rights Leader. In fact Baker was the only female to speak at the March on Washington and was asked by Coretta Scott King to take Dr. King’s place as leader of the Civil Rights Movement after her husband’s assassination. (Baker declined because she feared for the safety of her children.)
Two upcoming attractions Washington DC attractions that will feature African American History are the Martin Luther King Memorial and the African American Museum of History and Culture. I am looking forward to sharing these with my children in the future.
MLK Photo courtesy of KellyB . Mt Vernon Photo courtesy of Bridget Smith.
This is the time of year when special displays light up town squares, department stores, and homes around the United States. Not to be left out of the excitement, many zoos also present special light displays. Here are some of the best:
- The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden‘s PNC Festival of Lights runs from November 27-January 3 from 5-9 p.m. Now in its 27th year, the festival includes puppets, storytelling, train rides and the Polar Express 4-D Experience. See this preview of their Wild Lights show:
- Christmas at the Zoo is the Indianapolis Zoo’s popular Christmas light display and program. From December 4-30, the zoo lights up with special displays and visitors can see Santa’s Village, carolers and choirs, ride the Holiday Train, and see the Holiday Dolphin Show. Full Christmas at the Zoo festivities are from 5-9 p.m., but the zoo opens at noon so you can come earlier and see the animals before the fun begins. Admission discounts are given for sharing a hat, scarf, or gloves with the Mitten Tree or for recycling a phone book. Read More »