Lifting the Shadow: Memory, Race and Slavery in American Museums


Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowships


Social Sciences, Human Services, Criminal Justice


In recent years a small but significant wave of new museums have opened that focus on slavery and its legacies, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which has extensive exhibits on slavery and segregation; the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration in Montgomery, Alabama, which argues that slavery did not end, but evolved into today’s system of mass incarceration; and Greenwood Rising, which commemorates the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, ending a long silence and connecting past to present. These are not historic sites displaying new exhibits, but newly created museums that deliver challenging moral messages about the centrality of racial oppression to American history, and they have opened in in a period marked by growing racial tension, white nationalism and political division. This book project examines how the violence of US slavery and its lasting legacies is negotiated in these museums, as well as their potential to contribute to the development of a new, more critical historical memory of race in the United States.