GUEST BLOG: A Picture in the National Museum of African American History and Culture

[Dr. Sandra E. Gibbs]

What it’s like to discover that you are in the National Museum of African American History & Culture? “In” as in one of the pictures featured in the museum. It is absolute sheer pleasure.

Recently, a friend sent me an e-mail with the subject heading “Wedding.” I ignored it thinking it might have been a spam because this friend and I had not been in touch with each other for some time. Then, I got another message from her with the same subject. So I decided to reach out and ask her if she had sent me an e-mail. At the same time, she sent me another message to ask if I had received her first one.

I wanted to open the first message, but could not find it. I asked her to resend it. When she did and I opened it, I saw only the forwarded link for the museum. Why, I wondered did she send this? But as I kept scrolling, I saw the link to “Wedding Group Shot of Bride, Groom, and Family.”   When I opened that, lo and behold, there was the wedding picture of her sister and the wedding party. I was one of her sister’s bridesmaids. I thought, “Oh, if it is the wedding of Laverne, I was in it.” And there I was next to the groom. Boom, joy oh joy! I am in the NMAAHC museum!

I had never ever thought about the possibility that I would be in a picture in the museum. I had been following the development of the museum since its beginning and I am a charter member. My biggest goal was and is just to get to visit the museum. But just thinking about the fact that I am actually in a picture in the museum brings me unbridled happiness and pride.

The selection for the museum, I am sure, was based on the intent to capture, preserve, and depict the historical and significant cultural aspects of Black weddings. But of all of the millions of pictures of Black weddings, that one should be selected which included me is such a blessing.

The bride, Laverne Collins, then, and her twin sister, Leonia Collins, and I were friends at AM&N College (now UAPB) in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, 1960-64. They were from Greenville, MS, and I was from Crossett, AR. It was summer and we were in our respective homes for summer break.

I remember that I rode the Trailways bus to Greenville. I could have even walked to the bus station from my house, but I think I took a taxi cab because it was so hot and I had to carry my suitcase. I also remember being delighted that Laverne had asked me to be in her wedding.

Because of that friendship, I have become a part of history through a picture in the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It’s like the “old Black people” used to tell us children when I was growing up: “You never know who is watching you.”

It doesn’t matter that the picture does not show names and maybe not even the place or the dates. I know that I am in a picture in the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I love it!

Photography by Henry Clay Anderson Accession Lot 2007.1 courtesy of the NMAAHC


Dr. Sandra E. Gibbs is an independent education management professional in the Champaign, IL area.