December 7, 2019 – March 29, 2020
What happens when a people decide to govern themselves? America’s national treasures come to life in this compelling exhibition that examines the bold experiment to create a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
The Smithsonian traveling exhibition American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith explores the history of citizen participation, debate, and compromise from the nation’s formation to today. The exhibition focuses on the changing political ideals and principles of the nation, citizenship in a pluralistic society, and political participation and engagement.
A Great Leap of Faith
In 1776, British colonists in America revolted to change their world to a government based on the people. The identity of “the people” has been debated ever since. We are still on a journey to make a more perfect union, but we must all take active roles in this great American democracy.
A Vote, A Voice
The Founders never imagined the diverse body of voters we have today. They still envisioned that a limited body of propertied white men would vote on behalf of everyone. The fight for fair representation, suffrage, and a voice at the polls has meant struggle and changes to laws ever since.
The Machinery of Democracy
We often participate in the political system through informal institutions including state and national parties, nomination and ratification conventions, and political campaigns. This machinery of democracy engages the citizenry and often controls how we get our information about candidates and issues.
Beyond the Ballot
Our Constitutional First Amendment right is that of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. In different places, and with different resources, diverse groups of Americans have petitioned for their interests and concerns.
How do we define “We, the People”? What is the meaning of citizenship? Who is a citizen and what are their rights and responsibilities? We have continued to shape our diverse national identity by understanding our rights and responsibilities and by exploring our complex national story.
American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith is the centerpiece of Project Democracy 20/20, a major initiative exploring American democracy through exhibitions, public programs and innovative community connections. Click here to learn more about Project Democracy 20/20
American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith was developed by the National Museum of American History and adapted for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service