The museum will be open Fridays through Tuesdays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. beginning Sept. 25. Reserve your free timed-entry pass and review our latest visitor safety guidelines.

For the Love of Freedom: An Inspirational Sampling

“In every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance.”

 —Phillis Wheatley, 1774

These words demonstrate the classically-inspired and Christianity-infused artistry of poet Phillis Wheatley, through whose work a deep love of liberty and quest for freedom rings. Sold into slavery as a child, Wheatley became the first African American author of a book of poetry when her words were published in 1773, when she was only 20 years old. Her yearning for equality and dignity shows us the long arc of those fighting for, claiming, and exercising their rights, all while throwing off the yoke of oppression.   

Since the museum closed its doors on March 14, we have shifted our work to online offerings for teachers, students, and families, while also documenting the intersecting viral and racial crises, caring for our vast collections, and preparing for reopening in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic.

While we hope the museum can welcome onsite visitors soon, we are thrilled to share that a modest but mighty outdoor display will open on August 27.

For the Love of Freedom: An Inspirational Sampling features stirring statements from remarkable movement leaders and freedom fighters, the centerpiece of which is civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer’s portrait and powerful words on freedom installed on the face of our building.

Signs around the museum host quotations (all with Spanish translations) from other activists and leaders throughout U.S. history. We hope these words resonate with the efforts of so many to, as Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III recently stated, “demand a country live up to its stated ideals.”

As the nation’s history museum, one of our highest callings is to recognize and document history as it happens, and to place it in context with the past. We hope the voices of historical figures will encourage passersby to understand and embrace protest as a fundamental part of democracy.

Yours in all the good fights, 
Anthea M. Hartig, PhD, Elizabeth MacMillan Director, National Museum of American History


Fannie Lou Hamer

 

“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

—Fannie Lou Hamer, civil rights leader, 1971

Poster created in 1979 for school classroom, featuring Fannie Lou Hamer

Gift of TABS, Aids for Ending Sexism in School

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Harvey Milk

“Hope will never be silent.”

—Harvey Milk, gay rights activist, 1977

Protest sign for Gay Rights, ca. 1965-1968

Gift of the Kameny Papers Project (through Charles C. Francis)

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Protest sign for Gay Rights, ca. 1965-1968

Gift of the Kameny Papers Project (through Charles C. Francis)

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Ida B. Wells

1927 membership card for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a group co-founded in 1909 by Ida B. Wells.

 

“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

—Ida B. Wells, civil rights leader 1892


Bayard Rustin

“You have to join every other movement for the freedom of people.”

—Bayard Rustin, civil rights activist, 1986

Decal from the Prayer Pilgrimage For Freedom that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial on May 17th, 1957, organized in part by Bayard Rustin.

Decal from the Prayer Pilgrimage For Freedom that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial on May 17th, 1957, organized in part by Bayard Rustin.

U.S. Legislative Branch, Library of Congress, Exchange and Gift Division

Button from the March on Washington, co-organized by Bayard Rustin.

Gift of Virginia Beets

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Mamie Till

 

“What happens to any of us…had better be the business of us all.”

—Mamie Till, mother and activist, 1955

Anti-Lynching button from the 1930s/40s. Sold to support the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Gift of Sam D. Steinhart

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Ella Baker

“We who believe in freedom cannot rest.”

—Ella Baker, civil rights activist, 1964

Campaign bumper sticker for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, a group co-founded by Baker.

Campaign button for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, a group co-founded by Baker.


Dolores Huerta

“Walk the street with us into history. Get off the sidewalk. . . . Work for justice!”

—Dolores Huerta, labor activist 1975

Button made in support of the United Farm Worker’s grape boycott. Dolores Huerta co-founded the UFW.

Gift of John A. Armendariz

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United Farm Worker’s flag

Gift of Frederick A. Steadry

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Shirley Chisholm

 

“All we want is what you want, no less and no more.”

—Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm 1970

Shirley Chisholm campaign button

Shirley Chisholm campaign button


John Lewis

“Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”

—Congressman John Lewis, 2020

The button was made to commemorate participation in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which John Lewis helped organize and where he was a featured speaker.

The button was made to commemorate participation in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which John Lewis helped organize and where he was a featured speaker.

Gift of Robert N. Ferrell

Poster reminding voters of Bloody Sunday, a civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama. The arrow in the photo points to one of the march leaders, John Lewis, as he is beaten and arrested.

Gift of Voter Education Project

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