"America I AM: The African American Imprint," an expansive exhibit on African American culture and history runs through January 29, 2012, three weeks past the original schedule and overlapping the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. Discount tickets are available from the KPRS-FM 103.3 website.
During a visit last week with my family, I was struck by the depth of history -- the large exhibit wound it's way through the viewing space featuring a subtle soundtrack composed of somber spirituals, rattling chains, and drums, among other sound effects. The exhibit recreated a slave ship and gates from a departure point in Africa, among other settings. Covering 500 years of history and culture through modern days, the exhibit not only reflected on slavery in the US but also throughout the Western Hemisphere, including Brazil, Cuba, and other areas. Many of the items in America I AM, provided a detailed text, such as the text documenting the successful slave revolt in Haiti.
The "America I AM" exhibit included original artifacts and books, such as The Underground Railroad Records and A Muslim American Slave: The Life of Omar Ibn Said. The Civil War, Jim Crow, and the cultural lives of African-Americans were prominently featured in the historical spectrum.
Most importantly, the exhibit documents both a difficult and uplifting story of blacks in the US, something that people of all races in Kansas City should reflect on, given a shared history in the area.
Note: For area residents, one of the best kept secrets of Kansas City area history is the Quindaro Underground Railroad Museum, a permanent exhibit in KCK, which contains one of the larger collections documenting the route to protect black slaves in the United States.