For our first day in Washington D.C. we went to the National Mall. Our first visit was to the National Museum of American History. We began our visit to this museum with an exhibit called "Changing America" that highlighted the African-American struggle for freedom and equality in America. Half of the exhibit focused on the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and the other half on the Civil Rights Movement and the March on Washington in 1963.
When we walked into the exhibit I was reminded of everything I learned about in 8th grade and all the activities we did around the Civil War. It was unbelievable to actually see replicas of the whips and chains that were used on the slaves and read about what it was like to live that way. We got to look at a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and read the words of the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, declaring that all enslaved individuals "henceforward shall be free". However, I also learned at this exhibit that the ongoing battle for equal right among races didn't end when the Civil War ended, but that it still goes on to this day.
The second half of the exhibit looked more closely at the Civil Rights Movement, particularly the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King made his famous "I have a dream" speech. We saw pictures of the hundreds of thousands of people that gathered to speak up for equal rights on this day. Later we got to visit the place where Dr. King actually stood when he made that speech (see Lincoln Memorial Blog).
At the end of this section it showed other movements for equal rights that followed the Civil Rights Movement. This was my favorite part of the exhibit. It was amazing how the Civil Rights Movement empowered other groups to stand up and fight for what they believed in. Although they didn't have any thing displayed our kumu talked about how the Civil Rights Movement also gave way to Hawaiian Renaissance of the 1970ʻs out of which Hōkūle'a was born. Like the March on Washington, Hōkūlea was a way to send a powerful message. For generations, the Hawaiian people were disconnected, with little sense of cultural identity or pride. Hokule'a was part of a turning point that unified and empowered our people to once again be proud of our culture, and send that message around the world.