Two women stand on a stage looking happy.

Phillis Wheatley Poetry Festival

In 1973, Margaret Walker hosted a groundbreaking conference for Black women writers for the bicentennial of Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. Under the Black Studies Institute that Walker had founded five years earlier, 30 leading women participated in a series of lectures, roundtable discussions, and poetry readings.

Fifty years later, seven of the ten original participants reconvened, including Alice Walker, Paula Giddings, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, and Sonia Sanchez. They were in conversation with a newer generation of authors that included Nikole Hannah Jones, Imani Perry, Jesmyn Ward, and Angie Thomas. Along with concurrent sessions on creative writing and literary analysis, the Festival celebrated the lasting legacies of Margaret Walker, Phillis Wheatley, and other Black women writers.

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Watch opening session

Watch Nikki Giovanni interview

Free form illustration with words from workshop.

Creating Your Own Utopia: A Personal and Professional Development Workshop, Southeastern Museum Conference

Presented by the Smithsonian’s Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past initiative in collaboration with the Anacostia Community Museum, this pre-conference workshop provided an immersive learning experience to advance collaboration and professional resilience through the sharing of best practices in personal advocacy, community engagement, exhibition planning, and public programming that is highly accessible to the local community. Participants from the Smithsonian: Asantewa Boakyewa, Mandy Van Heuvelen, Samir Meghelli, Marquette Folley, and Travis Helms. The progam featured two artists from the Utopia Project exhibition, visual artist Yetunde Sapp and performing artist and activist Roach Brown. (Illustration below from Ashanti Gardner.)

A colorful collage of images and words.

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Alaska Program

The Smithsonian’s Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past initiative in collaboration with First Alaskans Institute engaged in a two-day dialogue to engage in critical discussions to deepen their collective understanding around issues of racial equity and anti-racism with Smithsonian staff, museum professionals from across Alaska, as well as Alaska Native community members. This community conversation is one of the first of many such dialogues by the Smithsonian supported through the initiative’s Founding Partner, Bank of America. Staff from the First Alaskans Institute hosted these conversations and with the group and on day one set the foundation for conversations on race in Alaska, discussed core concepts, and shared stories. The second day the group heard from invited community members on their experiences with museums and how museums can strengthen their work moving forward for the betterment of all Alaska Native peoples. 

Black and white image of children sitting on a log.

Oregon Program: Maxville Centennial Celebration

Maxville, nestled in Wallowa County, Oregon, about 13 miles north of the town of Wallowa in the state’s upper right-hand corner, was once home to about 400 residents. In its heyday, between 1924 and 1933, it was the largest town in the county. Maxville was a timber town—like so many towns in the Pacific Northwest— but, unlike most timber towns, it was home to both African American loggers and white loggers.

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NMAAHC, From Local to “Glocal” an International Collaboration Professional Development Workshop

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the Office of Strategic Partnerships at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) joined forces to develop a training workshop aimed at increasing institutional capacity to develop international partnerships and projects. The weeklong training hosted museum professionals based in the U.S. and Africa and helped participants discover new ways of working across cultures and borders for the benefit of all.

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Three adults stand looking down at an exhibition.

To Live and Breathe: Women and Environmental Justice in Greater Washington​

Through art, photographs, and personal belongings of women on the frontlines, the Anacostia Community Museum exhibition highlighted the efforts of local activists to ensure that all communities are safe and healthy. Putting their insistence on access to clean air, water, and land into historical and national context, the exhibition showcased the powerful legacy of women’s environmental justice work in Washington, D.C., and beyond. 

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Museum Association of the Caribbean conference, Advancing Indigenous Histories and Current Realities Panel Discussion

This session was hosted by the pan-Smithsonian initiative Reckoning Within Our Racial Past and highlighted the ongoing knowledge building and knowledge sharing on indigenous North America and Caribbean pasts. Presenters shared the status of emerging oral and material evidence, as well as formal/informal knowledge-sharing practices that are reshaping and advancing new educational curricula and indigenous scholarship, deeper community understandings of the indigenous past, and restructuring Indigenous economic development. Presenters illustrated these goals by highlighting two collaborative multi-year projects: Caribbean Ties and The Other Slavery. Panelists included, Dr. Deborah Mack, Director, Smithsonian's Reckoning Within Our Racial Past initiative; Michelle Delaney, Assistant Director for History and Culture, National Museum of the American Indian; and Katarina Jacobson, co-curator of Caribbean Ties and head of collections at the Musée Edgar Clerc, Guadeloupe.

Photo of various people sitting in desks in a classroom.

Lowcountry Project​

At the center of the Lowcountry Project is an exhibition on Gullah-Geechee cultural heritage that will open at the National Museum of American History (NMAH) in 2025. This multimedia exhibition will feature objects, photographs, audio recordings, and video drawn from several Smithsonian units, which together comprises one of the largest collections of Gullah-Geechee materials in the world. Beyond the exhibition, the Lowcountry Project consists of a community meeting series developed in collaboration with organizational and institutional partners, programming at different Lowcountry sites as well as at NMAH, as well as a digital platform to increase the accessibility of the exhibition and larger project. Thematically, the environment in Gullah-Geechee life and culture is a thread that not only unites the exhibit but the Lowcountry Project as a whole. Whether regarding foodways, recreation, religion, or community activism, the environment has been central to Gullah-Geechee heritage and will remain so into the future.

The Other Slavery Listening Session, Southeastern Museum Conference

This session, hosted by the pan-Smithsonian initiative Our Shared Future: Reckoning Within Our Racial Past, highlighted ongoing work of the National Museum of American Indian (NMAI) in collaboration with the Smithsonian Latino Center (SLC) and the National Museum of the African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). In September 2021, the museums and center hosted an inaugural event in what they hope will be an ongoing annual event/series. The Other Slavery examines this topic from the perspective of addressing regional historical practices of enslaving Indigenous people—from the Southwest to the West to the Southeast and North. In addition to the series, this session featured the work of NMAI in producing educational products for educators. This moderated conversation featured NMAI’s national education initiative, Native Knowledge 360ᵒ , highlighting its newest lesson on the Impact of the Gold Rush on Native Americans of California which addresses genocide, as well as share a future project, California Missions History and Legacy of Indigenous Slavery. Conversants shared how this developing program engages scholars, tribal leaders, and educators to produce these online resources for middle and high school students and educators.

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Modern, silver sculptures look as if walking with colorful circles.

NMAfA + Johannesburg: The Demonstration

Curated by Johannesburg-based artist Siwa Mgoboza, “The Demonstration” experiences focused on the theme of “Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past,” which aligns with the Smithsonian-wide initiative to address systemic racism and racial inequity in the U.S. and globally.

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