Where I came from through the Charles H. Wright African American History Museum
I’m a big believer in knowing where you came from to know where you are going. This simple phrase can be manifested in many ways, and we frequent quite a few. From studying our ancestral roots thru Geneology to reading books/essays from those who share my race to trying foods from a continent I have never known, I’m invested.
I learned of the Charles H. Wright African American History Museum in Detroit, Michigan, years ago but had never made it. It was time. The museum, in all its grandeur, is located just across from the DIA in downtown Detroit. A beautiful African mask hangs above the giant sets of double doors beckoning you to enter the museum. Once inside, you walk into a massive dome, and up the stairs, to the left, you enter the main exhibit, which leads you through the museum campus.
The museum is dedicated to exploring and celebrating African American History in a manner that leads to greater understanding and acceptance. Its namesake is a man who spent much of his life fighting for just that. Charles H. Wright was an African American physician determined to make a change. He ordered funds for medical training for Africans in the United States through the Detroit Medical Society, served as a doctor during the civil rights movement, and with his wife, opened a museum to share the history of the African American people. The impact of his legacy lives on through the museum itself and the outreach they do.
As you enter the exhibit on showcase currently, We Will Rise, you step into a theater to start, highlighting critical African American leaders and political figures from past and present in a short video introduction. We admittedly didn’t sit through the whole thing as we were more eager to walk through the museum itself. I didn’t know what to expect and was engaged to see the life stages in Africa we walked through.
It begins by leading guests through Africa from a geological standpoint to what life was like in a typical small town on the coast.
Intrigued by what things they ate then that I have tried recently, I almost missed an entire interactive area that was open. Luckily my littlest travel sidekick was there to alert me.
From there, you go through what it was like to be caught and captured, taken from your home for no reason, locked away in prison, and as a guest, you board a slave ship. I was not expecting this at all. I won’t go into too many details, but this broke me entirely. You are physically walking through the sights and sounds of what this felt like, even the temperature changes.
Next, you witness the auction block where slaves were sold to the highest bidder, a scene of what plantation life was like, with plaques along the way explaining the road to freedom. The museum then takes a turn to what life was like for the African American person post-slavery. This section includes getting hired for a job, then fired, segregation, Motown development, the civil rights movement, Jim Crow, etc. It’s clear to see that this historical account through the curator’s eyes is evolving, and he or she is up for the challenge.
Cost of Travel
Admission prices are small due to the desire for people to visit and learn. At my time of visiting, it was $5 for adults and $3 for children. A small gift shop on the premises has some unique pieces, some directly from Africa. It’s worth the visit.
As I avoid going into too much detail (I want you to see it for yourself) I will say this, parts of the museum are gut-wrenching. You know the pains, horrors, and stories, but seeing it laid out with mannequins and explained through plaques or the audio played throughout brings a new emotion level. It was a tearful day, where I answered so many questions for my daughter, but necessary that she understands her history. Each person who has suffered and each one who faces the now embodies a part of this history. Without knowing, seeing, understanding the past, how can one make informed decisions about the present? I will say, this is not for small children as some scenes broke me as an adult, and there is a lot to see, so please consider those factors when planning a trip. All in all, I enjoyed it, and it was worth every penny spent.
The Charles H Wright African American History Museum is located in Detroit, Mi.
You canfind another great Michigan Museum at the Grand Rapids Public Museum in Grand, Rapids Michigan.