This paper uses Stephen Best’s None Like Us and Charles H. Long’s Significations: Signs, Symbols, and Images in the Interpretation of Religion to redescribe the notion of sacred space in light of the national African American museum. After highlighting religion and the museum’s mutual Romantic origins, it underscores the invisible institution of slave religion as a modern counterpoint that is harrowingly evocative of the indeterminacy of human meaning-making. The national African American museum, represented by offerings from the Smithsonian Institution and the Equal Justice Initiative, operates as a social technology for working through the tensions of history. “Hallowed Haunts” examines its function as a matrix of haunting, where a variety of multi-sensory experiences lead visitors into a participatory reckoning with the legacy of slavery, one through which they determine how to face the challenges and potential opportunities that await them. As such, the national African American museum exemplifies Long’s thesis of sacred space as human centers, a metonym for the places humans visit for orientation.

Related Media

The Museum Scene from Black Panther (2018)
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture–Washington D.C.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum–Montgomery, AL


Richard Newton, 2020. “Hallowed Haunts: The National African American Museum as Sacred Space” Religions 11, no. 12: 666. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11120666