The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) will debut a thought-provoking exhibition titled Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures. Beginning March 24, 2023, the NMAAHC exhibit will explore Afrofuturist expression through art, music, activism, and more. 

The exhibition explores and reveals Afrofuturism’s historic and poignant engagement with African American history and popular culture. Through the voices of authors, artists, scholars, and creatives, the curation spans a spectrum from the enslaved to the cosmos. The NMAAHC will examine Afrofuturism through popular sci-fi stories of inspiring Black astronauts and the musical influence of Sun Ra, OutKast, P-Funk, and more.

The 4,300-sq. ft. temporary exhibit will give visitors a view of a variety of objects from Afrofuturism pioneers. Items include Octavia Butler’s typewriter, Nichelle Nichols’ Star Trek uniform as the character Lt. Nyota Uhura, and Nona Hendryx’s spacesuit-inspired costume worn while performing with LaBelle.

Exhibition Highlights

A highlight of the exhibition is the Black Panther hero costume worn by the late Chadwick Boseman. The Black Panther is the first superhero of African descent to appear in mainstream American comics. The film itself is the first major cinematic production based on the character.

The exhibition also utilizes select objects to elevate stories that speak to Black liberation and social equality, such as Trayvon Martin’s flight suit from Experience Aviation, and his childhood dream of being an astronaut.

“Trayvon Martin’s flight suit tells the story of a dream of space flight ended tragically by earthbound violence,” said Kevin Young, the Andrew W. Mellon Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. “We are honored to tell more of Trayvon’s story, exploring his love of flight and mechanics and his fondness for science and technology. Afrofuturism charts the joy of a rich, imagined future, often in the face of injustice.” 

Since its opening in 2016, NMAAHC has supported conversations, collections, and initiatives surrounding Afrofuturism. “Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures” will be on view in the museum from March 24, 2023, through March 2024. 

For more details about the new exhibition and to sign up for additional updates, visit the museum’s Afrofuturism website.

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