Begin with the Past

Begin with the Past tells the story of the making of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, from overcoming the deeply rooted prejudices and institutional challenges that stymied early initiatives to solving considerable practical problems, including funding, management, content, and location, once Congress had given the green light. It goes on to relate how the innovative building was conceived, designed, and constructed, beginning with an architectural competition, and discusses the many considerations that contributed to the decision-making process.


The architecture had to embody African American cultural sensibilities about space, form, and material. But what should those be and who should decide? How should the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture proclaim its place in the nation’s col- lective memory and claim its place on America’s public commons—the National Mall? 


Foreward by Lonnie G. Bunch III


Purchase here

Begin with the Past



Sep, 2016



"In the period after the Civil War and Reconstruc- tion, women and men began to call for the creation of institutions and landmarks to acknowledge the achievements of African Americans. Emancipation celebrations held around the country in the late 1800s and early 1900s presented ideal opportunities to make such calls. Communities sometimes held these events on the Fourth of July to coincide with the national holiday commemorating American independence and to draw attention to the contributions black Americans had made to the nation." 

African Americans marching in an Emancipation Day celebration in Richmond, Virginia, ca. 1905 



"To design the Corona, Adjaye, Freelon, and the FAB/S team gathered narratives from African and African American experiences of place making. The shimmering bronze façade represents the dif cult journey the country has taken to fulfill its ideals of liberty for all Americans. When illuminated at night, the delicate screen panels appear to hover above the ground like a lantern."