WASHINGTON (Feb. 1, 2011)—”America I AM: The African American Imprint,” an award-winning touring exhibition conceived and presented by broadcaster Tavis Smiley, opens at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C., this week. With more than 200 artifacts, the exhibition celebrates nearly 500 years of African American contributions to the United States. The museum’s presentation, opening Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011, during Black History Month, and continuing through Sunday, May 1, 2011, is the fifth stop on the exhibition’s 10-city, four-year tour.
“We are pleased to host this exhibition highlighting the contributions of African Americans and furthering a dialogue about our collective experience,” said Susan Norton, director of the National Geographic Museum. “We look forward to sharing the stories — some familiar, some surprising — of the influential African Americans featured in the exhibition. Our hope is that visitors leave with a richer understanding of the diverse culture and history of the United States.”
Through 12 galleries, this ticketed exhibition offers an in-depth look at the pivotal role African Americans have played and continue to play in the development of America.
“America I AM: The African American Imprint” is developed in partnership with Tavis Smiley and is organized by Cincinnati Museum Center and Arts and Exhibitions International, a division of AEG Live.
The exhibition is made possible by presenting sponsor Walmart Stores Inc. The exhibition’s educational partner is Northern Trust. Local sponsors include GEICO; The Madison, the museum’s Official Hotel Partner; and Amtrak.
“Walmart is proud to sponsor the ‘America I AM’ exhibition as the nation embarks upon its annual celebration of black culture and contributions in the United States,” said Alex Barron, regional general manager, Mid Atlantic States, Walmart U.S. “To help give all families access to this rich collection of history and culture, we are making tickets available for purchase in select Washington, D.C., area stores.”
“Northern Trust is proud to be the educational partner of this inspiring exhibition portraying some of the many significant contributions African Americans have made to our society,” said Northern Trust Chairman and CEO Frederick H. Waddell. “We are deeply committed to promoting cultural understanding and inclusion among our employees, clients and the communities we serve. We hope many people in the Washington, D.C., area and around the world will experience ‘America I AM’ and its celebration of African American history and culture.”
National Geographic also has enlisted the help of community partners African Continuum Theatre Company, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, D.C. Public Library (DCPL), African American Civil War Museum, Busboys & Poets restaurant and Eatonville restaurant. Collaborations range from a reading program and complementary exhibit with DCPL to participation in the Feb. 6 A.C.T.O.R. (A Continuing Talk on Race) discussion at Busboys & Poets. Restaurant partners for the exhibition are Georgia Brown’s, Langston Bar & Grille, Restaurant Marvin, Sodexo and Wild Onion Cafe & Catering.
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
Filled with poignant artifacts showcasing nearly 500 years of history, “America I AM” celebrates the imprint African Americans have had on the United States. Visitors will see objects ranging from shackles used in the slave trade to abolitionist material and the poetry of Langston Hughes. Personal items from contemporary African American figures such as Serena Williams, Michael Jordan and Prince will be on display. An interactive area will allow visitors to leave video “imprints” of their own experiences, a collection that continues to grow throughout the tour.
Exhibition highlights include:
-“The Door of No Return” from the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, which enslaved Africans passed through to board ships to begin the Middle Passage;
-Items from contemporary icons, including Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Etta James, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jordan and Tupac;
-Objects pertaining to the African American troops that fought in major U.S. wars;
-Malcolm X’s journal and personal Quran;
-The door key and stool from the Birmingham jail cell that held Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he authored “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”;
-Frederick Douglass’ clothing and a reproduced letter from President Lincoln that enabled Douglass to move among Union lines recruiting black soldiers;
-The robe Muhammad Ali wore during training for the “Rumble in the Jungle,” where he defeated world heavyweight champion George Foreman;
-A model of the first traffic signal, invented by Garrett Morgan, which served as the basis for today’s traffic lights.
The exhibition focuses on different aspects of African American history and culture as it unfolds across 12,000 square feet in both exhibition spaces of the National Geographic Museum’s 17th Street building. The 12 featured galleries are “W.E.B. Du Bois Vestibule,” “Our History,” “Rooted in Africa,” “Our Foundation,” “The Measure of Justice,” “The Soul of Freedom,” “The Voice of Equality,” “Invincible,” “Spirit,” “Patriotic,” “The Conscience of a Nation” and “The World and What’s Your Imprint?”
The National Geographic Museum and National Geographic Live, the public programs division of National Geographic, will present several free and ticketed programs during the run of “America I AM.” For full details of related public programs, see the enclosed “America I AM: The African American Imprint” listing.
The museum will celebrate Washington D.C.’s Emancipation Day with a free family festival from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 16. Activities will include a screening of the film “Emancipation Day,” an academic lecture and panel and other performances, lectures, workshops and exhibition ticket giveaways from the Junior Ranger Program from the Frederick Douglass House, Pearl Coalition, F.R.E.E.D. (Female Re-Enactors of Distinction) and Cadet Corps from the African American Civil Rights Museum.
Among the other free family workshop programs presented throughout the exhibition run will be a performance of the play “Lions of Industry, Mothers of Invention,” by the Smithsonian’s Discovery Theater (Feb. 5); a sneak peek at the story, actors, songs and dances created for the African Continuum Theatre Company & Adventure’s upcoming theater play “Mirandy and Brother Wind” (Feb. 19); “The Art of Adornment” (March 26), which will examine the expression of African American culture and identity through adornment with textiles, masks, feathers and jewelry; a look at the history and traditions of African American quilting and patterns with “Creativity Through Quilting: Exploring African American Traditions”; and many more. Some programs require advance registration; complete information is available at www.ngmuseum.org.
The museum will also present a free “America I AM” film series, sponsored by Walmart Inc., showcasing documentaries that take an in-depth look at historic events, cultural movements and the lives of prominent African Americans. The films include “A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde” (Feb. 12 & 13, 11 a.m.), “Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed” (Feb. 12 & 13, 1 p.m.), “Richard Wright – Black Boy” (March 6, 11 a.m. & 1 p.m.), “Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life” (March 12 & 13, 1 p.m.), “Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin” (March 12 & 13, 11 a.m.), “Pip & Zastrow: An American Friendship” (April 3, 11 a.m. & 1 p.m.).
National Geographic Live will present two events in Grosvenor Auditorium as part of the 2011 spring season. “Music On…Stage featuring Music Makers Revue” will take place March 29 at 7:30 p.m. ($12 Concert Ticket / $20 Concert Ticket plus Museum Pass). In association with the Music Makers Relief Foundation Inc., “Music On…Stage” will feature musicians Cool John Ferguson, Captain Luke and other legends of Southern music as they showcase the best of blues music. On April 23, the performance group Step Afrika! will host a free workshop at 10 a.m. followed by a demonstration at noon ($10) and a performance at 7:30 p.m. ($25).
National Geographic Live also will screen three films in Grosvenor Auditorium in conjunction with the exhibition as part of its free “Tuesdays at Noon” film program. The films are “We Are Arabbers” on Feb. 8, “Black Indians: An American Story” on Feb. 22 and “The Doll” and “Louisville” on March 15.
The museum and DCPL will host a reading program for children from March 1 to April 16. Each child who reads one or more of the selected books will receive a free ticket ($6) to the exhibition, and parents will receive tickets at a discounted rate. Participating readers will be recognized on the museum’s website and will have the opportunity to win a National Geographic book from their library. In addition to the reading program, D.C.’s Martin Luther King Library will host an exhibition, “DC I Am: Growing Up in the Shadow of the Capitol,” focusing on the local history of Washington, D.C.
Tickets are timed and dated and can be purchased online at www.ngmuseum.org, by phone at (202) 857-7700, and at the National Geographic ticket office, 1600 M Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. Specially priced tickets can also be purchased at Walmart stores in the Washington, D.C., area. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Ticket prices are $12 for adults; $10 for seniors (over age 62), students, military personnel and National Geographic members; and $6 for children ages 2-12. Children under age 2 are admitted free.
Walmart, Northern Trust and National Geographic are making complimentary tickets available for all school, scout and youth groups serving children under 18. In partnership with the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities and D.C. Arts & Humanities Education Collaborative, Walmart is making 10,000 free tickets available to D.C. public schools and chartered public schools, plus costs for transportation for student field trips. Interested schools should contact the D.C. Arts & Humanities Education Collaborative at (202) 204-7750. Educational partner Northern Trust has also provided tickets and transportation to underserved school groups in the D.C. area one day a week during March. All other school, scout and youth groups (25 people or more) from any geographic location should contact the National Geographic Museum at (202) 857-7700 in advance to make arrangements for complimentary tickets. Transportation costs are not included. For every 10 youngsters, one adult is required as a chaperone (all adult tickets must be purchased).
Prices for adult groups of 25 or more are $8 per ticket. For more information on group sales, call (202) 857-7281.
For ticketing and additional information, visit www.ngmuseum.org or www.americaiam.org.
The National Geographic Museum, located at 1145 17th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., features a variety of changing exhibitions as well as permanent and interactive displays that reflect the richness and diversity of our world. For more information, visit www.ngmuseum.org.
About The Smiley Group Inc.
Founded in 1998 and based in Los Angeles, The Smiley Group Inc. (TSG) is a communications corporation dedicated to supporting human rights and related empowerment issues. The mission of TSG is to achieve positive results through advocacy and education on issues of concern to African Americans and other people without substantial economic or social standing. TSG is the holding company for Tavis Smiley Presents, Smiley Radio Properties, High Quality Speakers Bureau, TS Media and SmileyBooks.
The Tavis Smiley Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides leadership development training for youth. Tavis Smiley is the host of “Tavis Smiley” on PBS and “The Tavis Smiley Show” from PRI and the author/editor of 14 books, including the New York Times best seller “Covenant with Black America.” His latest book is “Accountable: Making America as Good as Its Promise.” For more information, visit www.tavistalks.com.
About Arts and Exhibitions International (AEI)
Founded in 2003 by president John Norman and international vice president Andres Numhauser, AEI produces the award-winning exhibition “Diana: A Celebration” in association with the Althorp Estate in the United Kingdom, two touring exhibitions dedicated to the treasures of King Tutankhamun and “Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship.” Norman and Numhauser have nearly 40 years combined experience in the entertainment and exhibition business, working over the years on such projects as “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit” and “Saint Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes.” The company has relationships with the most important museums in the world and has presented traveling exhibitions on four continents. AEI is part of AEG Exhibitions, an affiliate division of AEG LIVE. AEG LIVE is the live-entertainment division of Los Angeles-based AEG, one of the leading sports and entertainment presenters in the world. For more information, visit www.artsandexhibitions.com.
About Cincinnati Museum Center
Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal is home to the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children’s Museum, the Museum of Natural History & Science, the Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX® Theater, and the Cincinnati Historical Society Archives & Library. It is a nationally recognized educational and research resource and one of the top cultural attractions in the Midwest. With more than one million visitors each year, Museum Center is the top cultural attraction in Cincinnati and the most visited museum complex in the state of Ohio. Originally built in 1933 as the Union Terminal train station, the building is a national historic landmark and was renovated and reopened as Cincinnati Museum Center in 1990. For information, call (513) 287-7000 or (800) 733-2077 or visit www.cincymuseum.org.
About Walmart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT)
Every week, millions of customers visit Walmart Stores, Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets and Sam’s Club locations across America or log on to its online store at www.wal-mart.com. The company and its Foundation are committed to a philosophy of giving back locally. Walmart (NYSE: WMT) is proud to support the causes that are important to customers and associates right in their own neighborhoods, and last year gave more than $270 million to communities in the United States. To learn more, visit www.walmartfacts.com, www.walmartstores.com or www.walmartfoundation.org.
About Northern Trust
Northern Trust Corporation (Nasdaq: NTRS) is a leading provider of investment management, asset and fund administration, banking solutions and fiduciary services for corporations, institutions and affluent individuals worldwide. Northern Trust, a financial holding company based in Chicago, has offices in 18 U.S. states and 16 international locations in North America, Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. As of Dec. 31, 2010, Northern Trust had assets under custody of US$4.1 trillion, and assets under investment management of US$643.6 billion. For 121 years, Northern Trust has earned distinction as an industry leader in combining exceptional service and expertise with innovative products and technology. For more information, visit www.northerntrust.com.