Lowcountry Rice in the National Museum of African American History and Culture


Across the world many people are celebrating and rejoicing over the September 24 opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I am overjoyed to have helped the curators in the creation of NMAAHC’s Lowcountry rice exhibit! My first book is titled Deep Roots: Rice Farmers in West Africa and the African Diaspora (Blacks in the Diaspora) — three of my photographs from my fieldwork in Rio Nunez region of Guinea are also in the exhibit!

The NMAAHC is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. It was established by Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans. To date, the museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts. Nearly 100,000 individuals have become charter members of the museum. When the NMAAHC opens, it will be the 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution.

Read more about the NMAAHC.

I was invited to attend the NMAAHC’s Collection Donor Preview & Reception on September 17. The physical structure looks amazing. My first reaction was to shout: “IT’S BEAUTIFUL!”

NMAAHC outside

Here’s a great two minute time-lapse video of the NMAAHC being built over 52 months.

Checking in to the event, with my invite in hand, I stood in line behind Nikki Giovanni and could not help reciting “Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day!”


Here I am in front of the exhibit – so honored to have my photographs included in this important space.


West African/Lowcountry rice is permanently planted at the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture! The harvests it will yield will educate millions about the contributions West African technology, labor and ingenuity of enslaved laborers, and suffering and sacrifices of Africans enslaved on Lowcountry rice plantations.


Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was the Lowcountry’s hydraulic irrigation system for flooding and draining millions of acres of rice.


This section is still under construction! I didn’t get to see the rice film after reading the script.


This piece is about the life and work in the Lowcountry.


Africans enslaved on Lowcountry rice plantations sold into the internal slave trade.


The have onsite a Point of Pines slave cabin from Edisto, South Carolina.


NMAAHC Receives Piece of Sea Island History With Slave Cabin Aquistion
NMAAHC Receives Piece of Sea Island History w/ Slave Cabin Aquistion

Speaking of which, here is a great blog post by the NMAAHC that explains the significance of the slave cabin they received with the help of the Edisto Island Historic Preservation Society. The story reveals the palatable intersections of history, people and the people who preserve history for the rest of us. Here’s a video about the acquisition.


So much to see at the NMAAHC. I encourage you all to visit as soon as you can. When you visit, let me know what you think: use #RequiemForRice whenever you experience the Lowcountry exhibit.



Author: Dr. Edda L. Fields-Black

Dr. Edda L. Fields-Black is an Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Department of History. Her research specialties are pre-colonial and West African history and their connections to the African Diaspora. Fields-Black has written extensively about rice farmers in early modern West Africa, as well as Africans enslaved on Lowcountry South Carolina and Georgia rice plantations. Fields-Black is currently writing an epic history of the Gullah Geechee from their Western African origins to the publication of Lorenzo Dow Turner's study of the Gullah Geechee language

2 thoughts on “Lowcountry Rice in the National Museum of African American History and Culture”

  1. Congratulations, Dr. Edda, for the recognition of your invaluable work in such a significant way. A nation of museum visitors will now be able to be enlightened and equipped with the knowledge that you have shared so generously with us here in Pittsburgh, which includes your contribution to the students enrolled in the African American Literature course of the Pittsburgh Public Schools!

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