Site Chosen for African American Museum


On January 30, 2006, the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents approved a museum site for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Congress, which has had the museum under consideration since the 1980′s, instructed the Regents to choose from four sites, two on the Mall and two nearby. The location they have selected is at the southwest corner of 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, a central location near the Washington Monument. NWHM extends its congratulations to the Museum!

The Mall location resonated well with Lonnie G. Bunch, founding director of the museum. “We are honored to have a site on the National Mall, a site that will allow this museum to become a place that encourages millions of Americans to remember . . . and to revel in the richness of African American history and culture.”

Like the hurdles the National Women’s History Museum currently faces, the African American History Museum had a long struggle to procure a building site. This idea was first proposed in 1916. In the 1980′s, members of Congress, historians and others pushed to have a museum honoring African American history and culture that would be part of the Smithsonian Institution. Representative John Lewis (D-GA) introduced the legislation in 1988. Representative Mickey Leland (D-TX) and Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) helped advance the plan. In 1994, the House passed a bill approving the museum, but it was blocked in the Senate. After a continued push for a museum site, President George W. Bush signed a bill authorizing the museum in 2003. While the Senate has approved NWHM’s building site, NWHM is still waiting for the House’s approval.

Although the Smithsonian’s announcement is a huge step for the African American Museum, the site must still be approved by several planning agencies. Congress and the Smithsonian have already set up a small administrative staff, and one of the first jobs will be an extensive fundraising campaign. Smithsonian officials estimated that the museum will cost between $300 million and $400 million, and the funding will be split 50-50 with Congress. The staff will also work to accumulate a collection of materials for the museum. Backers of the museum hope it will open by 2016.

NWHM asks Congress, when will women have their turn to be recognized for all of their contributions to American history and culture? NWHM has selected a museum site that avoids the protracted procedures for location on the Mall. NWHM has not sought Congressional funding. All of this has been done in an effort to expedite Congressional approval. In March, NWHM will have a letter on the homepage that people can sign and send electronically or print and send through the mail to their Representatives, urging them to enact NWHM’s building site legislation.

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