Categories: Museums & Galleries

African American Civil War Museum

The African American Civil War Museum is dedicated to preserving and telling the stories of the United States Colored Troops involvement in the American Civil War. It’s an important story that has been long overlooked in the story of that epic conflict. The museum is paired with the African American Civil War Memorial directly across the street.

It’s a relatively small and recent museum and not especially well known–at least, not compared to the city’s world-famous museums a couple of miles down the road.1 But the story it tells is both important and unique, attempting to reinsert the history of the service of hundreds of thousands of soldiers of African American, hispanic, and European descent who served in the United States Colored Troops back into the broader story of the American Civil War. And we’re not talking about only a few soldiers. There were 209,145 members of the United States Colored Troops (their names are listed on the memorial across the street), so it’s a massive collective experience, and their involvement contributed to the course of the war to an extent that has often been under appreciated.

There are relatively few artifacts on display. Instead, the museum relies heavily only informational panels of text and illustrations. But the panels are unusually well done and have been created thoughtfully and with high production values, making them more engaging than simple walls of text.

Photos of the African American Civil War Museum

The main entrance is down an alleyway next to a building. Photo by David Coleman

A model of Camp Barker, a Civil War era military barracks that became a contraband refugee camp. It was occupied from 1862-63 and located on the north edge of Washington DC. Photo by David Coleman

Photo by David Coleman

Much of the museum consists of wall panels of text and illustrations and map, but they’re of unusually high quality. Photo by David Coleman

There are relatively few historical artifacts on display, but these shackles are among them. Photo by David Coleman

Photo by David Coleman

The small gift shop (more of an alcove). Photo by David Coleman

Photo by David Coleman

A stage area inside the museum. Photo by David Coleman

Photo by David Coleman

What to Know Before You Go

It’s a relatively small museum, and you can comfortably take in inside an hour or two.

It’s located across the street from the African American Civil War Memorial in northwest Washington DC in the U Street neighborhood. Visiting that memorial is a natural complement to visiting the museum.

For hours and special events, consult the museum’s official website.

There is street parking nearby, but availability varies widely depending on time of day and even day of the week. A far more convenient option is to go by metro–an entrance to the U Street station is directly across the street, in the plaza for the memorial.

  1. The museum was established in its current space in 2011, but it occupied other spaces before that since the late 1990s.

Nearby & Related:

Washington DC Visitor Guides

If you're coming in from out of town, here are some of the most popular guidebooks that can help you make the most of your visit.

Fodor's Washington D.C 25 Best 2021 (Full-color Travel Guide)
  • Fodor’s Travel Guides (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
Frommer's EasyGuide to Washington, D.C. 2020
  • Pratt, Meredith (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

And here are some interesting options for less traditional guidesbooks if you'd like an emphasis on exploring DC on foot or diving into some of the region's rich history.