The restaurant inside the new National Museum of African American History and Culture offers food that satisfies the hunger — and a space that satisfies the mind.
Sweet Home Cafe has four serving stations, each representing a region of the United States: the North States, Western Range, Agriculture South and Creole Coast.
The idea is to expand people’s understanding of just how much African-Americans have contributed to our nation’s culinary heritage, says Joanne Hyppolite, curator for the cultural expressions exhibits that feature foodways, culture and cuisine.
“People think that African-Americans only created soul food,” Hyppolite says. But in fact, she says, black folks “had a long presence in kitchens all over the United States — whether that was in a railroad car, on ranches in the West, in wealthy people’s homes throughout the North and plantations to the South. They were there contributing to all types of American cuisine.”
It calls attention to African American “firsts,” including the first black lawmaker (Matthias de Souza, elected to the colonial Maryland legislature in 1641), the first female African American dentist (Ida Gray Nelson Rollins in 1890) and the first black U.S. chess grandmaster (Jamaica-born Maurice Ashley in 1999).
SMITHSONIAN MUSEUM, WASHINGTON, D.C.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is a Smithsonian Institution museum established in 2003. The museum’s building, designed by David Adjaye, is currently under construction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.. Early efforts to establish a federally owned museum featuring African American history and culture can be traced to 1915, although the modern push for such an organization did not begin until the 1970s.
After years of little success, a much more serious legislative push began in 1988 that led to authorization of the museum in 2003. A site was selected in 2006, and a museum design approved in 2009. President Barack Obama helped break ground for the building on February 22, 2012. First concrete was poured in November 2012, and construction will be complete in April 2016. Smithsonian officials have announced that the museum will open on September 24, 2016.