First NMAAHC Exhibit Opens at the National Portrait Gallery, Let Your Motto Be Resistance

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  • The Inaugural exhibit of the National Museum of African American History and Culture opens at the National Portrait Gallery on October 17, 2007. The exhibit is a collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery that features approximately 100 photographs from the Portrait Gallery's collections.
  • The exhibit draws its name from the words of abolitionist and clergyman Henry Highland Garnet who advocated action when speaking to a gathering of free blacks in 1843: "Strike for your lives and liberties.... Let your motto be Resistance! Resistance! RESISTANCE!..." It illuminates the variety of ways that African Americans resisted and redefined an America that needed but rarely accepted its black citizens. Starting with images from the mid-1850s, this collection traces 150 years of American history through the lives of well-known abolitionists, artists, scientists, writers, statesmen, entertainers, and sports figures. Photographs of the figures represented include Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Edmonia Lewis to W.E.B. DuBois, Lorraine Hansberry, and Wynton Marsalis. Among the photographers represented are Mathew Brady, Berenice Abbott, James VanDerZee, Doris Ulmann, Edward Weston, Gordon Parks, Irving Penn, and Carl Van Vechten.


  • Brady, Mathew B. 1823 (ca.)-1896
  • Douglass, Frederick 1818-1895
  • Van Vechten, Carl 1880-1964
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • National Portrait Gallery (U.S.)


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Visit the exhibit website at
  • "Past Exhibitions." Smithsonian Institution. September 19, 2017.
  • "Let Your Motto Be Resistance" National Museum of African American History and Culture Tumblr. August 31, 2016.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


October 17, 2007 - March 2, 2008


  • Portraits
  • History
  • African Americans--History



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