Feb 8, 2023 - Things to Do

A look inside the reopened Northwest African American Museum

Two women look at images on a white wall. A black wall converges with the white one in the corner. The wooden floors reflect the light.
Two people look at images in an exhibit focused on the history of Seattle's Martin Luther King Jr. annual march. Photo: Melissa Santos/Axios

The Northwest African American Museum reopened last month after a prolonged closure, providing gallery space for Black artists and highlighting how Black residents have shaped our region.

The big picture: African Americans' contributions to history and culture haven't always been acknowledged or appreciated, something this museum aims to help correct.

  • While there's plenty to see in the updated space, here are a few things that stand out.
1. A place to experience abstract art
Two leather benches facing walls with colorful art, along with a colorful blocky sculpture.
Part of the "Colors of Life" exhibit on display through June 24. Photo: Melissa Santos/Axios

A central room of the museum right now showcases the "Colors of Life," which features the work of abstract artists who are Black. It's set up as a place for visitors to bask in color, with ample benches that invite you to stay awhile.

  • The exhibition features work from artists LoMar Metoyer, Shantell Jackson, Yeggy Michael and Vincent Keele, and is billed as "a space for calming, healing and introspection."
2. Showcasing African Americans as pioneers
A display including text, a wagon wheel and a person dressed in 1800s farming clothes.
This display talks about pioneer George Washington Bush. Photo: Melissa Santos/Axios

A display devoted to Black Oregon Trail pioneer George Washington Bush focuses on Bush's journey to Washington state, and how he subsequently became a successful farmer and state legislator.

3. A tribute to Jacob Lawrence
A photo of a framed image of a man on a horse confronting water depicted as white swirls.
A print of Jacob Lawrence's "The hardest part of the journey is yet to come – the Continental Divide, stunned by the magnitude of the roaring rivers.” Photo: Melissa Santos/Axios

One exhibit focuses on painter Jacob Lawrence and the work he created while living in Seattle and teaching at the University of Washington.

  • The framed selections from Lawrence's series on pioneer George Washington Bush are prints, not the original paintings. But you'll still find yourself stopping to admire them — especially the stunning composition of Bush and his horse locked in a battle with a rushing, snowy river.
4. Honoring local African American veterans
A view of a display that includes text and photos of people in uniform, along with an aviation jacket in a clear case.
This display focuses on Northwest African American veterans. Photo: Melissa Santos/Axios

A display titled "Reporting for duty" recounts the stories of Black residents of the Northwest who served in World War II.

  • It features a jacket worn by William H Holloman III, who flew with the Tuskegee Airmen and became the Air Force's first African American helicopter pilot before retiring in Washington state.
5. An open-use community room
A room with rounded black chairs, a gray and lighter gray carpet, art on the walls and a low bookshelf along the far wall.
The community living room at the Northwest African American Museum. Photo: Melissa Santos/Axios

This is the museum's living room, a place where people can come and read books, look at art and play with puzzles, even without paying admission to the museum.

  • The bookshelves hold a range of titles for children and adults, with a focus on books written by Black authors or that delve into African American history.
If you go

Address: 2300 South Massachusetts Street

Hours: 10am–5pm Wednesday through Saturday


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