‘In the Front Yard of the U.S. Capitol’U.S. Rep. and legendary civil rights activist John Lewis, D-Ga., has long pushed for an African American history museum to be constructed on the National Mall in Washington. However, many officials say that the new National Museum of the American Indian occupies the last site on the Mall. So where does that leave a Black history museum?
“The National Mall and the space around it is the front door to America. A National African American museum should be in the front yard of the United States Capitol,” Lewis testified before the House Administration Committee on H.R. 2205, the bipartisan legislation that establishes within the Smithsonian Institution the first National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall.
On Dec. 16, 2003, President George W. Bush signed legislation to create the museum. The new museum will be devoted to the documentation of African American life, art, history and culture. As of now, the museum is still in the pre-planning stages of development. The museum will be structured and administered like all other Smithsonian museums, under the governance of the Smithsonian’s board of regents. The Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building, as well as three other sites in Washington, are possibilities for the museum’s construction.
The Smithsonian’s ability to begin this project will be contingent largely on receiving funds from Congress, but the Institution is also making an effort to raise funds in the private sector. The opening date of the museum is highly difficult to predict at this early stage, as the National Museum of the American Indian was authorized in 1989 but did not open until September.
For more information on the National Museum of African American History and Culture, visit <www.si.edu/nmaahc> or Lewis’ congressional Web site at <www.house.gov/johnlewis>.
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