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Ariana Curtis

A Brooklyn born African American educator and a Black Panamanian engineering research technician raised me, the youngest of their four kids, in an Afro-Latinx affirming household in western Massachusetts. Government forms and ill-informed publics have wanted me to be either African American or Latina, but I advocate for full and accurate representation of self above all. The yearning to see our lives publicly represented whole led me to study the complex overlap of Blackness, identity, gender, diaspora, belonging, and (lack of) institutional representation.

I currently serve as the first curator for Latinx Studies at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. I research, collect, publish, exhibit, and promote Latinx and Black-centered narratives (not mutually exclusive). My research areas of responsibility include: the African Diaspora, U.S. Latinx, U.S. Afro-Latinx, African American and Latinx, and African American migration to and engagement with Latin America. Using material culture and intangible cultural heritage, I help build Black-inclusive public representations of the history and culture of the Americas. I also serve in multiple roles for the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative. My work extends outside of the museum world to include public speaking engagements like Ted Women 2018, AfroLatin Talks, SXSW, and Politico Women Rule.

I am an unapologetic hoop-earrings lover and Fulbright scholar with a doctorate in Anthropology
(race, gender, and social justice) from American University, an MA in Public Anthropology from
American University, and a BA from Duke University.

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