Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture


Oct 23, 2019, 6:00 pm


Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Book Presentation and Conversation

Lonnie G. Bunch III
Secretary, Smithsonian Institution

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.       
Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director, Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, Harvard University

In A Fool’s Errand (Smithsonian, 2019), Lonnie Bunch shares the vision and leadership he brought to the realization of the National Museum of African American History and Culture—a dream shared by many generations of Americans. Bunch’s deeply personal story reveals the triumphs and challenges of bringing the museum to life and taps into broader questions of the role of race in America—past, present, and future. In this program, he will engage in a conversation with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates to discuss the significance and impact of the museum at a time when the nation is grappling with so many divisive political and cultural issues.

Copies of A Fool’s Errand will be available for purchase at the event. Each purchase includes a bookplate custom-designed by the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Free and open to the public. Tickets are required. 
Presented by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology in collaboration with the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research

Lonnie G. Bunch III is the fourteenth Secretary of the Smithsonian. He assumed his position on June 16, 2019. As Secretary, he oversees nineteen museums, twenty-one libraries, the National Zoo, numerous research centers, and several education units and centers. Previously, Bunch was the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum has welcomed more than five million visitors since it opened in September 2016 and has compiled a collection of 40,000 objects that are housed in the first “green building” on the National Mall. The nearly 400,000-square-foot National Museum of African American History and Culture is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting, and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. A prolific and widely published author, Bunch has written on topics ranging from the black military experience, the American presidency, and all-black towns in the American West to diversity in museum management and the impact of funding and politics on American museums. He has served on the advisory boards of the American Association of Museums and the American Association for State and Local History. In 2005, Bunch was named one of the 100 Most Influential Museum Professionals of the 20th Century by the American Alliance of Museums. Born in the Newark, New Jersey, area, Bunch has held numerous teaching positions at universities across the country.

Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., has authored or co-authored twenty-four books and created twenty documentary films, including Wonders of the African World, African American Lives, Faces of America, Black in Latin America, Black America since MLK: And Still I Rise, Africa’s Great Civilizations, and Finding Your Roots, his groundbreaking genealogy series now in its fifth season on PBS. His six-part PBS documentary series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (2013), which he wrote, executive produced, and hosted, earned the Emmy Award for Outstanding Historical Program—Long Form, as well as the Peabody Award, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, and an NAACP Image Award. Professor Gates’s latest project is the history series, Reconstruction: America after the Civil War (PBS, 2019), and the related books, Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow, with Tonya Bolden (Scholastic, 2019), and Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow (Penguin Random House, 2019).

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