Happy 2022 ... or is it? The New Year is already wrought with feelings of deja vu. As we approach the anniversary of the January 6th insurrection while still in the pandemic, it can feel that not much has changed.

National Civil Rights Museum — Memphis, Tennessee

National Civil Rights Museum \u2014 Memphis, Tennessee

Located steps away from the Lorraine Motel in Memphis where Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed in 1986, the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is a testament to the Civil Rights Era. Telling the story of the Black American journey to liberation, the museum traces the history from the slavery era through to Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement.

In the US, these periods have been packaged into a sterilized narrative which does not do justice to the lived experiences of Black people nor the formations of the structures which still implicate so much of our lives today. The National Civil Rights Museum aims to make those realities feel more immediate through a dynamic mix of artifacts and exhibits. These are juxtaposed against more active experiences such as oral histories, videos, and immersive activities like reenactments of the Montgomery Bus Boycotts. There's even an opportunity to sit at the original lunch counter from the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins.

The National Voting Rights Museum and Institute — Selma, Alabama

When the 2020 election focused heavily on voters' rights, mobility, and registration, it emphasized the history of voting inequality in America. Contemporary activists like Stacey Abrams are vocal about the systematic roots of voting disenfranchisement and take cues from activists of yore, but most people aren't taught the nuances of the Voting Rights Movement and its effects today.

Selma, famous for the 1965 MLK march to Montgomery, is home of The National Voting Rights Museum, which aims to keep this history alive and urge us to keep doing the work. The site is right on the bridge and houses artifacts from the march itself, including not merely photos, but torn clothing and footprints from where the state troopers incited violence at the 1965 march.

Whitney Plantation — Wallace, Louisiana

The Whitney Plantation Museum

The Whitney Plantation is a one-of-a-kind tribute to enslaved people. While many plantations are still standing — and often they are sites for parties, weddings, debutante balls and more in the South — none have been converted with the care and purpose of the Whitney Plantation. The 2000-acre property sits near the Mississippi river and was owned by enslavers until 1867.

The property was the first official slavery museum in America to be housed in a plantation. It's a joint project of the museum's director of research, Ibrahima Seck, and the property owner John Cummings, a retired white lawyer who was startled by his own ignorance of the history of slavery. The immersive experience focuses on honoring the lives of enslaved people by directly confronting the reality of the institution of slavery. Visitors are each greeted with a card that says the name of an enslaved person. Visitors and are encouraged at all steps to remind themselves of the humanity of the person behind the name while confronting the horror that person experienced.

The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration / The National Memorial for Peace and Justice — Montgomery, Alabama

The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration / The National Memorial for Peace and Justice \u2014 Montgomery, Alabama

New to mainstream conversation is the movement around defunding the police and abolishing prisons. However, abolitionists and activists have been fighting for this progress for decades. Statistics and research prove that Black Americans are disproportionately likely to be incarcerated. The Legacy Museum explains this phenomenon through the legacy of slavery.

Opened by the Equal Justice Initiative, the museum shines a light on the horrors of slavery and well as an equally unflinching view about the present injustices of the prison system. After groundbreaking films like 13th and books like Michelle Alexander's exceptional The New Jim Crow, a visit to the Legacy Museum is a visceral reminder of the realities of contemporary oppression.

Museum Of The African Diaspora — San Francisco, CA

The landscape of Black Americans is diverse and varied and the MOAD, an affiliate of the Smithsonian, finds its focus in the global lens of the African Diaspora. The museum explores the nuances of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, as well as the contemporary African diaspora. It also sheds light on different eras and diverse movement patterns to emphasize that Blackness is not a monolith and to promote a more global way of looking at activism.

Honoring Black history and culture beyond federal holidays, which are often devoid of context, is an excellent way to immerse ourselves in anti-racism. Black culture museums are constant reminders for us to think more deeply about intersectionality, history, and systemic oppression in our everyday lives.

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