An imposing dome and curved windows make an impressive introduction to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Founded in 1965 by a local obstetrician, the facility relocated in 1997 into its current 125,000-square-foot home in the heart of Midtown Detroit. Dramatic, filled with light and sweepingly modern, this is the world’s largest museum devoted to African-American history and culture. Visitors enter into a glassed rotunda that soars above a terrazzo floor; African flags flank the dome for an effect that’s both magical and inspirational.
Collections include an extensive, graphic study of the slave trade and in-depth displays about the Underground Railroad, jazz music and President Barack Obama. This museum is narrative-driven, starting with the terrible details of slavery. As visitors move from room to room, the exhibits become harsher and sadder, culminating in shocking vignettes of slaves piled on racks to be loaded onto boats. These images are horrifying, as intended, and impossible to forget. For this reason, the museum probably isn’t appropriate for young children, unless they've been properly prepared for what they'll see.
Not everything is somber, though. There are also lots of uplifting art exhibits, frequent lectures, musical performances and dance lessons. All told, the Wright is a powerful, thought-provoking centerpiece within Detroit’s cultural epicenter. Adult admission is $8, seniors and youth get in for $5, and children under age 3 are free of charge.