The country is currently embroiled in a crisis of conscience over the shooting death of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Martin's death has brought the issue of race to the forefront and led many LGBT activists and leaders to talk about how prejudice is still very much a part of life in the U.S. While many choose to get away from the realities of life on their vacations, others want to soak up knowledge and come back more well-rounded than before they left. In that spirit, we're presenting a list of some of the country's best social justice museums, where you can learn not only about discrimination, but how to battle it.
LOS ANGELES: Museum of Tolerance
The Museum of Tolerance, a project of the Simon Weisenthal Center, opened on Pico Boulevard 20 years ago. Its main efforts involve explaining and understanding the horrors of the Holocaust, including the LGBT people that perished in the genocide. But Weisenthal, a famed Nazi hunter, also wanted to broaden the museum's perspective and initiative dialogue on how people of all different stripes can get along. Exhibits about the Rwandan genocide, Asian-Americans, and hate crimes have also been part of MOT, which uses multi-media to help visitors see the experiences of others differently. Reservations are recommended and the museum is closed on Saturdays. Click here for more info.
PHILADELPHIA: African American Museum in Philadelphia
Built for the nation's 1976 Bicenentennial, the African American Museum in Philadelphia is one of the nation's first facilities to study the black experience in America. The museum's "Audacious Freedom" exhibit is reknown, tracking the experiences of free African-Americans in the burgeoning metropolis of Philadelphia. There is plenty of history lessons, including info on everything from the first black doctors to the revolutionary Black Panthers, but also art and lectures. Located right in the heart of Philadelphia, the museum is definitely worth a visit when you're next in town. Click here for more info.
SAN FRANCISCO: The GLBT History Museum
One of the world's only stand-alone museums dedicated to the queer experience opened in a Castro storefront three years ago. Featuring treasures from the GLBT Historical Society, the 1,600 square foot facility chronicles how LGBT people shaped San Francisco and how that community shaped American gay life, from Harvey Milk to marriage equality. Located on 18th Street, the museum is open seven days a week. Click here for more info.
WASHINGTON, D.C.: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
For an experience you will never forget, make sure to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Visitors take self-guided tours through three floors that directly expose one of the worst genocides of the modern era. Featuring over 900 artifacts, the museum allows you to experience what Jews, Gypsies, and gays -- just a sampling of the minorities slaughtered by the Germans -- did when they arrived in concentration camps. Memories of survivors, accounts of American soldiers, and chilling pictures of children who perished at the camps are all part of the experience. Not appropriate for children younger than 11; open seven days. Click here for more info.
WASHINGTON, D.C.: Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center
As part of the Smithsonian Institute, the organization that preserves the nation's history and is run by the American government, the Asian Pacific American Center looks to tell the story of the millions who've come to this country from the world's largest continent. Stories of Hawaiians, Chinese, and Indians fill the center, as does portraiture of famous and anonymous Asian-Americans. The center's latest event, "Intersections as American Life: the Smithsonian Asian-Latino Festival 2013" traces the intersection between Asian-American and Latino-American culture; the nation's two fastest-growing populations. The center is located in the Capital Gallery on Maryland Avenue. Click here for more info.