Movement for Black Lives Collecting Initiative

From paint cans and protest signs to buttons and speeches, our museum has always collected artifacts to illustrate key moments of people-powered change in our society. As part of that work, we remain committed to telling a fuller story about the long fight for Black lives in the United States.

In June 2020, curators from the National Museum of American History joined colleagues from the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Anacostia Community Museum to document protests in Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C., in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder. For the Center for Restorative History, collecting in Lafayette Square was just the beginning of a much broader commitment to partner with activists to document the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) in its full complexity.

Tens of protest signs, some of which read "Defund the Police," "Decrim. Sex Work," "No Justice, No Peace," "Black Lives Matter," and "Justice for Breonna" hung on a wall and displayed on the ground along a city sidewalk.
Documenting objects at Lafayette Square, one of several sites in Washington, D.C., where thousands gathered to protest police brutality and the murder of George Floyd. Courtesy of Nancy Bercaw

The Movement for Black Lives—Not a Single Story

The Movement for Black Lives Collecting Initiative will center Black life, Black organizing, Black cultural production, and Black protest to capture the diverse organizing strategies and political agendas of M4BL activism around the nation. Objects and stories will be collected collaboratively, interpreted dynamically, and shared widely to cement the movement within the historical record of the nation’s flagship history museum. Through the voices and perspectives of organizers on the ground, we will put collected materials into conversation with other Black liberation movements and our nation’s persistent history of state-sponsored anti-Black violence. Working in partnership with activists who are imagining liberatory Black futures, we hope to co-create a more accurate story of our past and present.

Three people playing instruments in the back of a truck. Standing on the street in front of the truck, three others hold a large white banner which reads "Defend Black Womxn." Three of the six people hold fists in the air.
A “Defend Black Womxn” banner is held up at a march in downtown D.C. for Juneteenth, 2020. Courtesy of José Centeno-Meléndez

The Team

  • Dr. Modupe Labode | Curator, African American Social Justice History
  • Dr. Nancy Bercaw | Curator, Political History; Deputy Director, Center for Restorative History
  • Tsione Wolde-Michael | Curator, African American Social Justice History; Director, Center for Restorative History