The National Women’s History Museum Opens its First In-Person Exhibit Today

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The display at Penn Quarter’s Martin Luther King Jr. Library will focus on Black feminism in DC.

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Rendering courtesy of the National Women’s History Museum.

Since its founding in 1996, the National Women’s History Museum—one of the country’s largest collections of women’s history information and artifacts—has been an online museum focused on research projects. Today, it’s debuting its first ever physical exhibition: We Who Believe in Freedom: Black Feminist DC will be on display at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in Penn Quarter through September 2024. 

Curator Sherie M. Randolph says that when she came onto the project, the museum’s board had already decided this first exhibit would be centered around Black women. The display she helped create takes visitors through the history of Black women’s activism in the city, highlighting local leaders like Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, civil and women’s rights activist Mary Church Terrell, and welfare advocate Etta Horn. Books written by the women are featured on the large display boards, and there is a cart with additional copies for visitors to check out at the front desk.

Visitors can write the name of those who inspire them on petal-like cards and hang them on the cherry blossom tree. Photograph by Keely Bastow.

Much of the exhibit explores the past, but curators also focus on the present. Visitors can “make their own manifesto,” on a wall of rotating prompts that focus on different social issues, or write the name of someone who inspires them on a cherry blossom petal card.

This won’t be the last physical exhibit from the National Women’s History Museum, not to be confused with the Smithsonian’s forthcoming American Women’s Museum. The hope is that the exhibit will lay the groundwork for shows in other cities, which can focus on their own local figures. 

We Who Believe in Freedom: Black Feminist DC will be open during library hours at 901 G St., NW.


Visitors can roll the prompts to show the causes they care about. Photography by Keely Bastow.

Editorial Fellow

Keely recently graduated with her master’s in journalism from American University and has reported on local DC, national politics, and business. She has previously written for The Capitol Forum.

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