Smithsonian Secretary Dr. Lonnie Bunch’s Dream of an African-American History Museum is Fulfilled

FILE – In this Sept. 21, 2017, file photo, Lonnie Bunch, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, talks about the museum’s first year and his vision for the future of the exhibits, in Washington. Bunch was named May 28, 2019, as the 14th Smithsonian Secretary by the Smithsonian’s board of regents. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Dr. Lonnie Bunch III, the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, sat down for an exclusive interview with National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The two discussed Bunch’s timely new book, “A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama, and Trump.”

“I [initially] saw this journey to build a museum that could help bridge the chasms that divide us as a ‘fool’s’ errand,’” Dr. Bunch said.

The book outlines the multitude of challenges Bunch faced when pursuing the construction of the historical museum.

Those challenges included choosing the location; architect; design team; and the collection of unique pieces of African American artifacts.

He added that the museum was “an errand worthy of the burdens.”

Available from Smithsonian Books on the organization’s website and at Amazon.com, “A Fool’s Errand” is a tour de force of Bunch’s personal and political accomplishments.

During the intimate video-taped interview inside the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the two visionaries also tackled topics that ranged from the Transatlantic Slave Trade, their shared North Carolina families’ histories, the writing legacy of author James Baldwin, and the contemporary vitality of the Black Press of America.

“The relevance and inclusion of the Black Press in events such as this one, show the continued significance of the Black Press,” NNPA Chair Karen Carter Richards, said after the interview between Chavis and Bunch.

“The Black Press is alive and well, and we will continue to be the daily recorders of our history across the globe. Although we’ve seen many changes within our industry; these changes are bringing better opportunities for the Black Press,” Richards said.

“So, we are honored that Dr. Lonnie Bunch has chosen to include us as a part of this important national media event,” she said.

While in graduate school, Bunch desired to write a dissertation about the Black Press, he said.

However, naysayers told him the Black Press was unimportant.

He said that theory quickly was proven wrong.

“I knew it was,” Bunch said.

“I think the Black Press has always been the guardian of our community. It’s always been the place where facts are found that are not told in other places. It’s a place where you can understand the richness of the community.

“What I love about the Black Press today is that it’s a place that reminds people of the power of the African American community… the Black Press is critically important.

“What [The Black Press] does is it reminds us that there are many different lenses to understand a story. If you don’t have the lens to the African American community, where are you going to find your story? For me, the Black Press is crucial not for the past, but for the future,” Bunch said.

The Smithsonian national leader also marveled over the enduring legacy of Baldwin, whose works explored racial, sexual, and class distinctions in North America.

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Source: Black Press USA