Yesterday on C-SPAN I watched Allen Weinstein who is the Archivist of the United States interview Lonnie Bunch who is the founding director of the Smithsonian’s planned National Museum of African American History and Culture. It was an excellent interview and I was thoroughly impressed with both the intellectual rigor and emotion that Bunch brings to the table, which will be necessary in steering this project through. There were a number of times when Bunch had to address important interpretive questions surrounding slavery; perhaps the most prevalent being the importance of balancing the horrors of slavery and racial discrimination without losing sight of the initiatives and humanity displayed throughout by African Americans. I was also surprised to hear that a good chunck of the money will be used to gather artifacts from the 20th century. Towards the end of the interview, Weinstein asked if there are any personal stories that drive his endeavors. Bunch told the story of his grandfather. His grandfather worked as a sharecropper until his early 20’s when he decided to become a dentist. Somehow he managed to earn a degree from Howard University by age 30. Once his degree was completed, however, he found out that much of the job market was closed to him on account of the fact that his degree was from Howard. He then asked for the most respected Dental program in the country and was told the University of Chicago. This man made the choice to apply to the school and go through the program over again from the start. It will be stories like this that will hopefully animate the new museum.
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