‘Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth.’

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Smithsonian exhibition at Washington State History Museum inspires with history of revolutionary African American men

A new traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian opens at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma on Dec. 21. Visitors will be immersed in the narrative of our nation through the stories of revolutionary, iconic African American men. “Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth.” educates visitors about more than two dozen known and unknown men, past and present, illuminating their historic contributions through story and art.

“We are honored and thrilled to feature ‘Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth.’ As of now, we’re one of only two museums on the West Coast that will host this phenomenal exhibition. It will be on view at the History Museum through March 15, 2020. We encourage everyone to come see it and to learn about these change-makers,” said Jennifer Kilmer, Washington State Historical Society’s director. 

“Many of these men’s contributions have often not been explored in the history books, as other narratives have been favored. For me, the most compelling aspect of this exhibition is the way that it shifts and sheds light on these lesser known narratives in a way that brings them to the forefront where they belong,” said Mary Mikel Stump, the Historical Society’s audience engagement director. 

“Men of Change” highlights men such as Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, W.E.B. Du Bois and Kendrick Lamar, whose journeys altered the history and culture of our country through politics, sports, science, entertainment, business, religion and more. Each biography is paired with original artwork by noted artists. These contemporary artworks accentuate each individual’s legacy. Participating artists include Nina Chanel Abney, Derrick Adams, Robert Pruitt, Hank Willis Thomas, Tariku Shiferaw, Devan Shimoyama and others.

The exhibition weaves a collective tapestry of what it is to be an African American man and the shared experience of African American men across generations.

Created by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), “Men of Change” is made possible through the support of Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services with local support provided by Alaska Airlines.

“We hope that by experiencing ‘Men of Change’ visitors will see a lesson for us all, regardless of gender, race or nationality,” said Myriam Springuel, director of SITES and Smithsonian Affiliations. “In these men we see an absolute ideal and a well of inspiration that encourages us to become our best selves.”

A diverse group of artists, advisors, academics, curators and museum professionals determined the men chosen as “Men of Change.” From Carter G. Woodson to Ryan Coogler, these men have changed entire fields, fought for justice, revolutionized art and touched millions of lives directly and indirectly. These men serve as metaphor, representing the many more men and the broader community that shaped them into important change agents. “Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth.” also incorporates the names and language of others – men and women – that signify the power of the African American journey in the American story. 

“Ford and the Smithsonian have a shared commitment to honoring people and achievements that make our world a better place,” said Jim Vella, president of Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services. “We are proud to partner with them on this innovative exhibition.”

Opening day for “Men of Change. Power. Triumph. Truth”. is Saturday, Dec. 21. Check the History Museum’s website for related programs and details at WashingtonHistory.org/MOC.

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