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A Trip to the California African-American Museum

December 17th, 2010 by David Kronemyer · No Comments

I recently visited the California African American Museum in Los Angeles with several of my friends. It is situated in Exposition Park, across the street from U.S.C. Before everybody got there I walked around the Rose Garden, redolent of Los Angeles in the 1930s. Bold statements about art, poetry, literature and philosophy adorned some of its stele, now cracked from years of neglect. Eventually everybody showed up and here we all are at the museum:

I found the museum to be an intriguing and educational experience. It opened with an exhibit of African masks, which were astonishingly artistic. There was a photograph exhibit about Allensworth, a town founded by black pioneers in 1908, which I never had heard of (strangely, all of the photographers appeared to be white). Here is a picture of Allensworth:

There also was an exhibition of work by the artist John T. Scott. I was familiar with some of his work, but not intimately so. His most striking pieces were giant woodcuts made on plywood panels, which he then used as masters to ink prints. Some of his other pieces, though, were nondescript – derivative of other 20th century quasi-modernistic art. Here is a picture of Scott:

An exhibit about African-American roller skating teams didn’t do too much for me (all of us were, so to speak, rolling their eyes). However I was profoundly affected by the museum’s “Gallery of Discovery,” reflecting the travails and existence of Africans in America, starting with the trans-Atlantic slave trade from the 1450s until the 1800s. The exhibit’s description of the Middle Passage particularly was harrowing. From an artistic standpoint, the most effective part of the exhibit was a “gallery of heads” representing the unknown millions who did not survive the journey. Their anguished faces were mute testament to the devastation their predecessors had endured. There is no way to estimate the exact numbers of Africans who perished along the way. It has been estimated that as few as 6 million and as many as 25 million Africans were taken out of Africa over the four hundred years that the institution of slavery existed. Somewhere between 15% – 30% died on the journey. Interestingly, the exhibit estimated that only around 450 thousand of those slaves were imported to what is now the United States; the rest went to destinations in the Caribbean and South and Central America.

After the trip to the museum we all went out for dinner at M&M Soul Food in Leimert Park. We had a raucously good time. I am not a culinary expert, however the food was great! In summary, a good time was had by all.