Poet Elizabeth Alexander celebrates the power of a people’s voice

As part of a commemorative Washington Post issue on the National Museum of African American History and Culture, director of Creativity and Free Expression Elizabeth Alexander reflects on the stories, and story, of a people. 

Since 2006, Ford has made several contributions to the museum—the largest for galleries focused on African American life after the civil rights movement.

Published in the Washington Post | September 15, 2016
Poet Elizabeth Alexander celebrates the power of a people’s voice
By Elizabeth Alexander

The story of a people is a million stories, and there are stories told in objects that let us remember but also teach us what we do not know.

Each family has its stories, and sometimes they come together as something collective, of a people. Objects of the sort that have been gathered in this museum—precious objects, handled by generations and thus infused with meaning and power—will allow visitors to recall known experience and passed-along tales. The mystery and force of collective memory is that we can access experiences that we might not have had ourselves but reside in a collective unconscious that the museum will make material.

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