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Three pieces from VCU Libraries’ collections to be displayed at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture

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This postcard of Sixth Mount Zion Church is from VCU Libraries’ Rarely Seen Richmond digital collection of postcards of vintage Richmond postcards. The church was saved from demolition in the 1950s when construction of Interstate 95 cut a swath through Jackson Ward, effectively bifurcating a historically African American neighborhood in Richmond.

Two digitized photographs and a digitized postcard from VCU Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives will be featured in inaugural exhibitions at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is slated to open Sept. 24 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The three images that will be displayed at the museum include:

The photo of the Moton School will be included in an exhibition gallery titled “Making a Way,” while the two images of Sixth Mount Zion Church will be included in an exhibition gallery titled “Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: Era of Segregation 1876-1968.”

VCU Libraries often receives requests from museums for collection materials for loan or reproduction and use in exhibitions or publications. This request is particularly meaningful, according to Wesley Chenault, Ph.D., head of Special Collections and Archives at James Branch Cabell Library.

A bit of our collective past in Richmond and Central Virginia is now represented there and connected to a larger narrative of struggles and triumphs related to civil and human rights.

“While loaning or sharing our collections is a part of what we do, it is thrilling nonetheless to be able to contribute to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture,” Chenault said. “A bit of our collective past in Richmond and Central Virginia is now represented there and connected to a larger narrative of struggles and triumphs related to civil and human rights at the National Mall, a living site of landmarks, museums, protests, events and more. This is where our nation’s first African-American president was inaugurated, the same site where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. That is exciting to consider.”

The three images help illustrate an important part of African-American history and the struggle for equality, Chenault said.

“The photographs and postcard were created during a near century-long struggle for African-Americans to improve their lives in the United States,” he said. “They provide evidence of grassroots efforts to carve out spaces that anchored and nurtured communities during an era of legal and extralegal segregation and to seek equality in the public sphere.”

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, part of the Smithsonian Institution, is under construction on a five-acre tract adjacent to the Washington Monument. It is envisioned to become a place where visitors can learn about the richness and diversity of the African-American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped shaped the United States.

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 225 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Seventy-nine of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. The VCU Health brand represents the health sciences schools of VCU, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center and Level I trauma center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, MCV Physicians and Virginia Premier Health Plan. For more, please visit www.vcu.edu and vcuhealth.org.