History Galleries and Special Exhibits
This is the museum’s lobby. From here you can choose which gallery to enter.
There are seven History Galleries. These tell the story of the Black Holocaust in chronological order from life in Africa before captivity to African American life today. Each history gallery has a home page where you can view all its current exhibits, find resources for further learning, and peek at planned exhibits.
Click on the Special Exhibits Gallery to visit our Memorial to the Victims of Lynching, the Freedom-Lovers' Roll Call Wall, an art exhibit, and featured temporary exhibits.
Explore the galleries in order – or start in one and jump to another. Stories within each gallery contain links, so you can follow interconnected stories from one exhibit to another. Or from one gallery to another.
The museum is constantly adding exhibits. Cyberspace is virtually infinite, so you will always find your favorite exhibits alongside the new ones.
Select a Gallery
Many of us believe Africa was “uncivilized” before Europeans arrived there. Nothing could be further from the truth.The lives of Africans before slavery were much like the lives of the Europeans who captured them.
Pre-captivity Africa and its great civilizations provided the world with crucial technologies, in mathematics, architecture, medicine, astronomy, agriculture, marine navigation, art – and more.
From the 1400s to the 1800s, the voyages known as the “Triangular Slave Trade” were part of a complex international system of commerce.
Many people involved in this commerce made fortunes by capturing, selling, buying, transporting, and forcing adults and children into hard labor as prisoners for life.
Learn how this so-called “peculiar institution” shaped our country's past – to understand how it continues to mold our economic, political, legal, and social systems today.
This gallery explores the brutal realities of enslavement. It also tells uplifting stories of resistance and redemption by the enslaved and their allies.
This gallery explores the complex story of the promises of full citizenship made to black Americans – and then broken – in the dozen years following Emancipation. It also reveals some of the ways African Americans developed new community institutions that contributed greatly to our country's development during this tragic period and beyond.
Following the Civil War and Reconstruction, white people – in both the South and the North – found ways to maintain their accustomed power over black people. They did this through a combination of laws, social customs, and mob violence. This oppressive system is known as “Jim Crow” or "the Nadir."
The struggle for justice and equality stretched across the entire 20th Century. We call the especially active years of the 1950s and 1960s “the Civil Rights Era.” African Americans developed creative ways to protest racial inequality and gain new legal rights.
After the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, many citizens – black and white – thought African Americans could now live the American Dream of liberty and justice for all.
But, sadly, our country has not yet achieved its journey to justice. This gallery explores the roadblocks that persist and the efforts of many Americans to dismantle them.