I remember learning about the idea of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) when I was working for President Bush in the White House. As a young man, I was inspired by the opportunity to commemorate the tremendous and often neglected contributions of African Americans to the American story. Back then, the Museum was just an idea, but I made a mental note to one day be a part of it.
Between 2002 and 2016, planning and building on the museum coalesced into what is now a beautiful, $540 million structure on the Washington Mall, next to the Washington Monument.
Lonnie G. Bunch III, the first Black leader of the Smithsonian Institute, spent 14 years overseeing the creation of NMAAHC.
“We started with a staff of two,” Bunch told CBS Sunday Morning in 2019. “We had no idea where the museum would be. No collections. No money. This museum collected 40,000 artifacts, of which 70 percent came out of people’s basements and attics and homes.”
While our history has not always been kind to African Americans, the museum tells the whole story openly, with no embellishment or obfuscation.
“In a museum that’s going to talk about difficult issues,” said Bunch “you need to find that tension between those stories that are going to make you cry, but there are also those stories that give you that resiliency that will make you smile.”
The Museum is a remarkable and breathtaking achievement in our cultural history. That is why I have been a Cultural Ambassador to the Museum since 2019. As a Cultural Ambassador, I am a part of a community of leaders and entrepreneurs who promote philanthropy and service in the interest of the Museum. We and our fellow Ambassadors offer financial support to the Museum, and utilize our networks to promote the Museum’s cause and curation.
It is an honor to play a small part in this remarkable establishment of culture and history, and to continue to support awareness of African American causes.