A Providing History: Smithsonian Exhibit Showcases Americans&#039 Charitable Acts

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(Left) A firefighter’s boot utilized to gather money from motorists for the “Fill the Boot” campaign for muscular dystrophy which started in 1954. (Center) A Habitat for Humanity belt was utilized by a volunteer in rebuilding houses in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. (Proper) Bucket used by Jeanette Senerchia in 2014 launching the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Courtesy of National Museum of American History hide caption

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Courtesy of National Museum of American History

Don’t forget a couple of years ago, when it seemed like we have been all a single huge happy family members, Americans of each age and political stripe, joined in common pursuit? Millions of us spent that summer season pouring buckets of ice water on our heads, to raise funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also recognized as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Philanthropy has usually played a massive part in the United States, helping to shape who we are, what we do and how. Now it’s the subject of a new exhibit called “Providing in America” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

The 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge turned out to be a single of the most productive fundraising efforts in U.S. history. But museum curator Bonnie Lilienfeld says it had a really modest beginning — a blue plastic bucket that you may use for a mop.

The pail belonged to a New York lady, Jeanette Senerchia, whose husband has ALS. A relative challenged her to dump ice on her head to raise awareness about the degenerative illness and to post the video on-line. She did just that, and the rest is philanthropic history.

“Individuals just started dumping ice on their heads,” Lilienfeld says. “It seemed like a sort of crazy issue, and at the time people wondered what it really was going to do.”

But the grassroots campaign raised much more than $ 115 million to fund medical research and became the latest symbol of Americans’ creativity when it comes to giving. Lilienfeld says U.S. philanthropy comes in numerous shapes and sizes.

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“Like this fantastic 1764 silver plate that was provided by Thomas Hancock to his church in Boston, Massachusetts,” she says, pointing to a huge communion dish on display. The border of the plate is inscribed with the name of Hancock’s church, but also his personal name, creating clear to all the other parishioners that he was the one who produced the donation.

Lilienfeld says individuals not only give to help other folks, but occasionally to support themselves.

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These early 19th century alms boxes were used to gather income for religious institutions and charities. Courtesy of National Museum of American History hide caption

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Courtesy of National Museum of American History

Nevertheless, U.S. philanthropy has met important social needs over the years, frequently funding things that government did not. In the 19th century, wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie utilised his income to develop libraries across the nation. He believed the wealthy had a responsibility to support the common good.

And in the early 1900s, philanthropist Julius Rosenwald worked with Booker T. Washington to construct thousands of schools in the South to educate black young children, who would otherwise have had an inadequate education. The exhibit includes a metal lunch tray from a single of these schools.

But Lilienfeld says charity isn’t just about these with income. Far from it.

“It’s wonderful what just a tiny bit can do,” she says, pointing to a little orange box, the type trick-or-treaters used on Halloween to gather spare modify. More than the years, the money added up, raising much more than $ 175 million for UNICEF.

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A UNICEF Halloween collection box, late 1990s. Amid concerns about planet affairs soon after Planet War II, Americans have been encouraged to donate to international relief. Philanthropy became the human face of global American influence and organizations and foundations regularly funded projects led by the United Nations. Courtesy of National Museum of American History hide caption

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Courtesy of National Museum of American History

At times, providing doesn’t involve funds at all. The exhibit also includes a blood donation kit.

“That is actually sort of the ultimate gift of truly giving of oneself,” says Lilienfeld. “We integrated that story here to get folks to realize, at times the smallest act actually is an act of philanthropy.”

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Maryland slaveowner George Burchhartt granted freedom to his slave in a letter from 1793. Courtesy of National Museum of American History hide caption

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Courtesy of National Museum of American History

She says numerous Americans prefer to do something much more to aid charity than just writing a verify. There’s a tool belt on display that a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity used to construct a house. And a t-shirt from a charity race.

But not all providing was really so benevolent. The exhibit involves a 1793 letter from a Maryland slaveholder, granting a single of his slaves her freedom.

“It really is not constantly a happy story. I imply for her, at least she got freedom, but it truly reminds us of the energy this man had over her,” says Lilienfeld.

She adds that mainly, giving in the U.S. has been aimed at enhancing life, and seems to fill a require numerous Americans have to take matters into their personal hands.

“This thought that we come with each other in a crisis, we come with each other to take care of each other, we come with each other to get things accomplished,” she says.

The exhibit is on permanent display at the museum.

Arts &amp Life : NPR


The untold story: a significant new museum tackles African-American history

The National Museum of African American History and Culture opens a trapdoor on to submerged aspirations and buried injustice

©Smithsonian Institution

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC

Thirteen years and $ 540m in the creating, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is crammed with scholarship — and stuff. Only a fraction of the freshly assembled collection is on view, but even that choice covers a stunning range: the dress Marian Anderson wore when she sang her historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 a pair of shackles utilised on the Middle Passage the shawl that Queen Victoria presented to Harriet Tubman George Clinton’s fabled stage prop, the P-Funk Mothership and the remnants of the slave ship São José, which sank off South Africa in 1794, killing 200 captives. (The rest had been rescued, then sold off the next week in Capetown.)

This overwhelming institution left me craving far more — much more time to linger, more context for its artefacts, and a far more detailed historical narration. For all its abundance and square-footage, the inaugural display sketches out a story that I hope future exhibitions will flesh out. Situated at 1 end of the National Mall in Washington, DC, and diagonal to the Washington Monument, the new museum opens a trapdoor on to a fathomless history of underground railroads, submerged aspirations and buried injustice.

National Museum of African American History and Culture©Smithsonian Institution

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Increasing in a glorious three-tiered crown, the creating is the fruit of a century’s striving. A group of African-American veterans of the civil war initial proposed the concept for a commemorative museum in 1915, and in 1929 President Calvin Coolidge signed legislation for a memorial celebrating “the Negro’s contributions to the achievements of America”. The idea languished for decades, stalled in portion by members of Congress who thought it smacked of specific pleading. Instead, the outcome is a celebratory and mournful location, comfy with contradiction.

“You cannot understand American notions of freedom with no which includes American notions of slavery,” says founding director Lonnie G Bunch III. A few minutes inside make it clear he’s correct: the sequence of galleries bares intolerable but crucial truths.

National Museum of African American History and Culture©Smithsonian Institution

National Museum of African American History and Culture

The architecture follows by means of on its mission. The style team, led by African-born British superstar David Adjaye and African-American architect Philip Freelon, swathed a massive glass box in a membrane of bronzed aluminium. The filigreed scrim opens and conceals at the very same time, rendering the structure a secret in plain sight, like the history it consists of. The dark tones set it apart from the Mall’s lily-white parade of Modernist and Neoclassical marble.

Based on the light and time of day, the façade oscillates amongst brown, grey and dappled gold. It can take on a harsh industrial edge or the glow of hand-hewn wood. Hints of manual labour recall the ironwork patterns crafted by slaves to adorn neighbourhoods in Charleston and New Orleans.

Shackles (dated before 1860)©Smithsonian Institution

Shackles (dated just before 1860)

Self-portrait by Frederick C. Flemister (1941)©Smithsonian Institution

Self-portrait by Frederick C. Flemister (1941)

The District of Columbia’s height restrictions imply that only half of the NMAAHC can ascend into the pierced upside-down pyramid that the architects get in touch with the “Corona”. The reduced floors, committed to history, burrow and twist through the earth like an ant megalopolis. Separated by a luminous, virtually-empty atrium, the upper floors celebrate cultural accomplishment against the odds: as the old expression has it, “making a way out of no way”. Between the two sets of galleries — beneath, a step-by-step march through time above, a chaotic jumble of musical and theatrical glories — is a transformed state of thoughts and a vast vertical emptiness awash with dappled light and possibility.

Dress sewn by Rosa Parks©Alex Jamison/Collection of the Smithsonian

Dress sewn by Rosa Parks

The subterranean exhibition starts with abduction and enslavement, merging fact and artefact. Some of the narrative will be familiar, but I was taken aback by the extent of my ignorance. I had in no way regarded how the ancient practice of slavery was reinvented and racialised to stoke the industrial revolution. I also didn’t know that, during the American Revolution, British commanders have been the 1st to offer freedom to slaves who fought beneath their flag. (The colonists caught on and supplied the very same deal, so blacks fought on each sides of the war.)

The museum does occasionally even out nuances with a varnish of uniform uplift. The really first person to die in the revolutionary war was a black man named Crispus Attucks, shot by redcoats in the Boston Massacre. A text panel quotes John Adams apparently praising Attucks for possessing “undertaken to be the hero of the night”. But Adams, who defended the British soldiers (and did not, as the label claims, serve as “prosecutor”), was in fact accusing Attucks of reckless rabble-rousing. In its original context, “hero” is a term of scorn.

The installation tells a story that’s at after studded with detail and frustratingly vague. It tosses out names — Net Dubois, Stokely Carmichael — without having letting us get to know the individuals behind them. Probably it’s very best to navigate these corridors with a smartphone at hand to offer some depth on the fly. I spent the day soon after my check out in a Google haze, reading up on the African context for slavery, Dubois’ smackdown with Booker T Washington, and the controversial legacy of the poet Amiri Baraka. Stimulated by the snippets of Carmichael’s speeches that play on a screen in the galleries, I located longer versions on YouTube.

Vest worn by Jimi Hendrix (1960's)©Smithsonian Institution

Vest worn by Jimi Hendrix (1960’s)

©Smithsonian Museum

Pair of red and black Air Jordan I high leading sneakers produced by Nike and worn by Michael Jordan (1985)

It doesn’t take lengthy to realise how drastically the curators have compressed history, and how strategic are their omissions. A wall panel offhandedly refers to Paul Robeson’s “alleged Communist sympathies”, scooting previous his intimate partnership with the Soviet Union. The texts barely mention the potent part American communists played in anti-lynching brigades, the civil rights movement and the Black Panthers.

Dr Huey P. Newton, Black Panther Minister of Defense (1968)©Smithsonian Institution

Dr Huey P. Newton, Black Panther Minister of Defense (1968)

Sometimes that coyness leads to downright distortion. The lyrics to “Strange Fruit” (“Black bodies swingin’ in the southern breeze”) are stencilled on a vitrine, attributed to Billie Holliday, who made the song famous. Truly, a Marxist Jewish schoolteacher named Abel Meeropol wrote the poem, set it to music with his wife, Anne, and performed it with the African-American singer Laura Duncan at Madison Square Garden in 1938. The elision may be a modest detail, but it speaks loudly of the need to make a hard story easier and far more palatable.

Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture Architectural Photrography©Smithsonian Institution

National Museum of African American History and Culture

The narrative picks up speed when it hits the 1980s, rushing by means of the last few decades in its hurry to reach the Obama years. That triumphal finale strikes an odd note at a time of resurgent racial rhetoric and violence. I can think about Lonnie Bunch and his team already preparing how to hold two arguments in creative tension: African-Americans have accomplished astonishing progress more than 400 years, and now a lot more than ever we need a national museum as a shield against complacency.

Opens to the public on September 24. nmaahc.si.edu

Photographs: Smithsonian Institution Alex Jamison/Collection of the Smithsonian

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Section: Arts


Mae Reeves&#039 Hats Hang At National Museum Of African American History And Culture

A visitor views a partial recreation of Mae’s Millinery, a Philadelphia hat shop that after served Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne, at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Ariel Zambelich/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Ariel Zambelich/NPR

African-American females have been wearing fancy hats to church for generations. That tradition is getting celebrated at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which officially opens in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24. Vintage turbans, caps and fascinators that span a half-century are on display — all from the shop of 1 lady.

Her name is Mae Reeves.

In 1942, a time when couple of girls have been becoming entrepreneurs, Reeves opened what would grow to be a Philadelphia institution with a $ 500 bank loan. Her hat shop, Mae’s Millinery, helped dress some of the most well-known African-American women in the nation, like iconic singers Marian Anderson, Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne.

Reeves hung her hat above the retailer, raising her household in the very same creating — 1st in downtown Philadelphia and later West Philadelphia.

“You do what you got to do,” she mentioned, reflecting on the early years of operating her enterprise in an interview with the Smithsonian recorded after the museum acquired a collection of her hats. “I had to perform with my household and make a living also. So I did it, and I am quite proud of it.”

Donna Limerick, daughter of Mae Reeves, wears her favorite hat designed by her mother. The original is housed at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, so she wears a replica. Ariel Zambelich/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Ariel Zambelich/NPR

Downstairs, buyers ranging from white socialites to black domestic workers kept the money drawer ringing. Reeves’ daughter Donna Limerick, a former NPR producer, remembers putting on a black dress and pearls as a teenager to support her mother sell hats created of blue tulle, pink organza and purple feathers.

“In the course of Mother’s Day and Easter, when females would just come one soon after the other, that bell would just ring, ring, ring,” Limerick says.

Reeves’ hat organization aids paint an extraordinary portrait of the Wonderful Migration, according to Paul Gardullo, a curator at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Mae Reeves and her husband Joel pose with her hats at Mae’s Millinery in Philadelphia, circa 1953. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift from Mae Reeves and her children, Donna Limerick and William Mincey, Jr. hide caption

toggle caption Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift from Mae Reeves and her children, Donna Limerick and William Mincey, Jr.

“Consider about this: You’re speaking about amidst of a depression, amidst of Jim Crow, a young woman who has moved from the South to the North, and she produced a good results of herself really from nothing at all,” Gardullo says.

And numerous of the females who wore her hats had been attempting to make much more than just a style statement.

“For black females who grew up in the Jim Crow era, as my grandmother and my mother did, hats were a way for them to take ownership more than their style, a way for them to assert that they mattered,” says Tiffany Gill, author of Beauty Shop Politics: African American Women’s Activism in the Beauty Industry.

A Philadelphia resident, Gill says she nonetheless hears women talking about how they used to save money to purchase a hat from Reeves’ shop. It was a center not just for black fashion but also for civic life on election days.

“My mom would permit them to bring these huge machines into her tiny little hat shop, so individuals in the neighborhood could vote,” Limerick recalls.

Each city, Gill says, once had at least one particular popular, black-owned hat shop where African-American buyers could typically find far better service than at white-owned shops.

“When I see older females who nevertheless wear hats to church on Sunday or bring them out on unique occasions, it really is just a reminder to revere that generation and the ways they asserted dignity when to be black and to be a woman was some thing that brought about ridicule,” Gill says.

(Clockwise from leading left) Ochre-colored rolled brim suede hat with feathers purple tulle cap with pink and purple feathers blue and white hat with blue tulle streamer red feather lamp shade hat. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift from Mae Reeves and her children, Donna Limerick and William Mincey, Jr. hide caption

toggle caption Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Present from Mae Reeves and her youngsters, Donna Limerick and William Mincey, Jr.

They’re a generation that Reeves helped dress with pride.

“I like to make them quite,” Reeves explained with a chuckle in her interview with the Smithsonian.

Prompting her mother, Limerick asked, “So several females came to your hat shop and when they left, they sure looked gorgeous, did not they?”

Mae Reeves created this green raffia lamp shade hat with silk and polyester. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Present from Mae Reeves and her children, Donna Limerick and William Mincey, Jr. hide caption

toggle caption Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Present from Mae Reeves and her children, Donna Limerick and William Mincey, Jr.

“Oh yeah,” Reeves answered.

The hat shop closed in 1997 and a handful of years later, Reeves moved into a retirement home.

“When she left, her final words were: ‘Don’t touch something in this hat shop! I am coming back to make a lot more hats,’ ” says Limerick, who later arranged for the shop’s contents to be donated to the Smithsonian.

Reeves is turning 104 in October and can no longer practice what for her was much more than a craft.

“It was a calling for me, one thing that I loved to do, making them colorful,” she told the Smithsonian. “That is why they came from everywhere to get something different.”

The National Museum of African American History and Culture has recreated a portion of Reeves’ shop, total with its original red-neon sign, sewing machine and antique furniture. And she’s arranging to go see her hats again, this time in the nation’s capital.

Arts &amp Life : NPR


From Trading Beads To The Very first Wristwatch, A History Of Shiny Objects

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According to Aja Raden, a Hungarian countess commissioned the first wristwatch from watchmaker Patek Philippe around 1868. &quot[It] was a spectacularly expensive piece of jewelry,&quot the author says.

According to Aja Raden, a Hungarian countess commissioned the 1st wristwatch from watchmaker Patek Philippe around 1868. “[It] was a spectacularly costly piece of jewelry,” the author says. Courtesy of the Patek Philippe Museum by means of Harper Collins hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the Patek Philippe Museum through Harper Collins

Aja Raden’s new book, Stoned, is about jewelry, but on the 1st page she lays out a bold statement: “The history of the globe is the history of want.”

“There is no far more powerful statement than ‘I want,’ ” Raden tells NPR’s Audie Cornish. ” ‘I want that. I want them.’ … Even if it is an issue of survival, you still are driven by what you want and what you are compelled to take or have or sustain.”

As Raden tells it, jewelry is the quintessential object of need — and it really is the excellent lens via which to view human history. She makes her case via the stories of eight noteworthy jewels, starting with the glass beads a Dutchman utilised to purchase Manhattan from the Lenape Indians in 1626.


Interview Highlights

On the worth of the glass beads which, along with buttons and trinkets, were utilized to acquire Manhattan

The worth of these beads was famously calculated at $ 24. We mass generate them now in the billions and they are worth nothing. At the time, they had been hand-blown. They have been made by Venetians, either in Venice or in Holland, and they have been known as trade beads and they were used all over the globe sort of like Renaissance-era traveler’s checks, because glass was extremely valuable in areas exactly where it didn’t exist, like the Americas.

The query … is “What tends to make a stone a gem?” Simply because they’re all just rocks, genuinely some of them aren’t even rocks, like amber – it really is just fossilized resin, you can really melt it. What tends to make a stone a gem is that other men and women never have it, that it really is exotic, that it’s uncommon, that it excites you when you see it. And that was true of glass beads.

On the very first wristwatch

Stoned book cover

There was a Hungarian countess who needed one thing that would make a splash. And there were guidelines, there was a pecking order about how massive your diamonds can be, and so she couldn’t step outside her rank but she did have a excellent deal of income. And so she went to Patek Philippe, which every person knows is 1 of the greatest watch makers in the planet. So she asked them, “Can you make me a real, working clock little adequate to replace the diamond in my bracelet?” And back then technologies — just like now — miniaturization meant money. And this was a spectacularly high-priced piece of jewelry and it produced a sensation. And over a few years, men and women started to receive them and they had been referred to as “wristlets.”

On how Planet War I machine guns helped popularize wristwatches

All of a sudden it was not possible to synchronize firing an automatic weapon with two hands and simultaneously hold pocket watches. And so, for the duration of the [Second Anglo-Boer War], which came correct just before Globe War I … [the British] remembered wristlets and they snapped the fronts off [pocket watches] and then strapped them onto their wrists.

When they got home, the war commission started looking into what have been referred to as “trench watches” for males. And in Planet War I, they have been the lynch-pin piece of technology that permitted all the other technologies to function, from timed explosives to silent synchronized firing. It does not get its due in military history, but it must.

On how the value of jewelry changes more than time

There will usually be one thing that is the rarest rare, that is the most useful, that quickly telegraphs to everyone … you happen to be portion of the proper class, you are privileged. But whether or not it really is diamonds in the 20th century or emeralds in the course of the Spanish Empire or glass beads amongst the Iroquois, these things absolutely do alter. Simply because, what tends to make a stone a gem? Is it uncommon? It is hard to get? Did it come from far away? At some point, we might be trading rocks from Mars as even though they were huge sparkly jewels no matter what they look like. Just since: How in the world did you get that?

On whether writing the book produced her look at her jewelry differently

The truth only ever enhances the luster of one thing for me. I enjoy becoming capable to look at my pearls and know that that was a parasitic infection 15 years ago. I adore being aware of that, you know, this glass bracelet I am wearing was the crown [jewel] of the Iroquois in terms of rarity. I don’t discover it at all diminishing to what I personal. And I am very the jewelry hoarder, as you can picture.

Arts &amp Life : NPR