Flashpoint Extra: New Smithsonian secretary visits Philly, talks National Museum of African American History and Culture

Flashpoint
October 20, 2019 - 8:38 am
Flashpoint host Cherri Gregg speaks with Lonnie Bunch III, the first-ever African American Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The newly appointed Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution was in Old City this week for a chat at the Museum of the American Revolution. 

Lonnie Bunch III is the 14th person to hold the position and the first African American in the role. But he got the gig—taking on the task of a lifetime, that is—building the National Museum of African American History and Culture, where 7 million people have visited in just three years.

"It was one of the longest journeys of my life," said Bunch, "but it was so well received that it makes everything worthwhile."

The endeavor took 11 years and was chronicled in his new book, "A Fool's Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History in the Age of Bush, Obama and Trump." Bunch said Philadelphia historian Dr. Charles Blockson helped begin the collection effort, by generously donating items from the one and only Harriet Tubman.

"A knife and fork that she made," Bunch described, "handmade and would use when she went into the South to liberate people, a shawl that was given to her by Queen Victoria and then a hymnal with all the songs she would sing when she went into the South."

Bunch said he raised millions, sparing no expense, on this bronze building on the Washington Mall.

"What I think I am so proud of," Bunch shared, "is that the museum is of such a quality that it is worthly not only of the Smithsonian, but the rich history of black America."