America I Am
February 12, 2009
America I AM: The African American Imprint
The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia proudly hosts the world debut of the America I AM: The African American Imprint exhibition, celebrating nearly 500 years of African American contributions to our country. The four-year touring museum exhibition opens on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth date on January 15, 2009, and runs through May 3, 2009.
The 15,000 square foot exhibition presents a historical continuum of pivotal moments in courage, conviction, and creativity that solidifies the undeniable imprint of African Americans across the nation and around the world. It provides context to how African Americans have contributed to and shaped American culture across four core areas: economic, socio-political, cultural, and spiritual, up to present-day events, including the inauguration of the first African American president. 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 (AEI), which also organized the King Tut exhibition that last year became the most attended touring exhibition in the world.
Visitors will experience the Center’s shared culture and history through an unprecedented collection of rare historical objects, documents, religion, music, narration, photos, and media that tell this uniquely American story. An interactive component will allow visitors to leave their own video “imprints,” and this collection will grow throughout the life of the exhibition with the potential to become the largest recorded oral history project in U.S. history. Through over 200 artifacts culled from every period of U.S. history and 12 exhibition galleries, America I AM will convey a journey from struggle to triumph to celebration. Among the poignant pieces in the exhibition are:
* “The Doors of No Return” from the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, which enslaved Africans passed through to board ships to the “New World”
* The typewriter Alex Haley used to write the groundbreaking book, Roots
* A first edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin
* Objects representing the African American troops that fought and impacted the outcome of major U.S. wars
* Malcolm X’s diary and personal Koran
* The door key and stool from the Birmingham jail cell that held Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he authored his infamous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
* Frederick Douglass’ clothing and letter from President Lincoln that was designed to protect him from harassment as he moved about the nation’s capital campaigning for African American rights
* The robe that Muhammad Ali wore during the “Rumble in the Jungle,” where he defeated world heavyweight champion George Foreman
* And many other important items from the beginnings of our nation through contemporary popular culture
The Center will offer daily programs and several evening programs to the public in conjunction with this world premiere exhibition.