“Every day I wish I was as strong as my enslaved ancestors. When I look at what it’s going to take to build this museum, I take great comfort in coming out of that community,” says Lonnie Bunch III,.
Mr. Bunch , is an author, historian, educator, and founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture, opening September 24 in Washington, D.C. Bunch is no stranger to struggle. In the 10 years it has taken him and his staff to raise the $270 million needed to open the museum, he has traveled the country and the world gathering donations and objects. His fearlessness, optimism, and infectious smile have led to the creation of the largest collection of African-American artifacts ever gathered in one place. The museum, the 19th in the Smithsonian, will house 3,000 items in 400,000 square feet of space designed by David Adjaye. “All Americans took a piece,” the 63-year-old Bunch says of the drive to collect money and articles. People not only opened their wallets, they “opened their trunks, their attics, their basements and gave us amazing things.”
Bunch has brought together the shackles of an enslaved child, Harriet Tubman’s hymnal, the dress Lena Horne wore in Stormy Weather, Chuck Berry’s Cadillac, and even the Parliament-Funkadelic Mothership. “This is not a one-visit museum,” says Bunch, who received the Visionary Historian Award from the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., in May. More than anything, he wants everyone to remember that African-American history is not only American history but also “the coolest thing in the world. There’s humor, tragedy, love, sex—and rock ‘n’ roll.”
Editor’s Note: What a great template to copy for us to create The Harlem Museum Of History and Culture with Marcus Garvey’s SS Shadyside ship raised that sank off of 157th Street in Harlem as the anchor piece.