“America I Am” is on display at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis. Presenter Tavis Smiley says it’s the most comprehensive exhibition of Black history to ever go on tour. Smiley, who in his other life, is a Public Radio Personality and Author, is now he’s traveling with his exhibit.
By showcasing artifacts and information about everyone from baseball’s Jackie Robinson to space explorer Guy Bluford, from Rosa Parks to Michael Jackson, he says there’s something for everyone.
He says Missouri is well represented with icons such as Miles Davis, and “Dizzy’s horn is in the exhibition, he played here so many times, of course,” Smiley says. “Inventors like Garrett Morgan who invented the traffic light … imagine the City of St. Louis with no traffic lights?”
He says there are artifacts from every aspect of human interest, encompassing 400 years of African American heritage and achievement.
The exhibit comprises 30,000 square feet, 12 galleries, 300 items, four theaters and is in St. Louis through mid September.
He says it’s a show for all ages, all races, pointing out that black folks couldn’t have made it to the places they did without the support of the white and Jewish communites, and that Black history is an integral part of what made America what it is today.
The show has been hosted in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Washington. Smiley says it’s never announced where the show goes next until that happens, but that it has not yet been to places like Chicago and New York.
Tavis Smiley is the host of the late night television talk show, Tavis Smiley on PBS and The Tavis Smiley Show distributed by Public Radio International (PRI).
In 2007, Smiley made TV history as the moderator and executive producer of the All-American Presidential Forums on PBS, the first Democratic and Republican presidential debates broadcast live in prime time with a panel exclusively composed of journalists of color.
He is the author of 14 books. His memoir, “What I Know For Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America,” became a New York Times bestseller, and the book he edited, “Covenant with Black America,” became the first nonfiction book by a Black-owned publisher to reach No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. His latest book, “Accountable: Making America As Good As its Promise,” examines hard-hitting truths about the issues our country faces, and how our political leaders, corporations, and American citizens can enforce accountability and effect change.
In 2009, Time magazine named Smiley one of “The World’s 100 Most Influential People.” In the spring 2009, Smiley released “STAND,” his first documentary film, which he directed, wrote, and produced. STAND relates the experiences of Smiley and 10 friends on a road trip through Memphis and Nashville. They explore the impact of the civil rights movement and the role and relationships of Black men in America, against the backdrop of the 2008 presidential race and the 40th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.
The nonprofit Tavis Smiley Foundation (TSF) provides leadership training and development for youth. His communications company, The Smiley Group, Inc., is dedicated to supporting human rights and related empowerment issues.