Newswire: Smithsonian names Lonnie Bunch III secretary

By: BlackmansStreet.Today

Lonnie Bunch III

He is the first African American elected to the post
The Smithsonian Institution’s Board of Regents has elected Lonnie Bunch III the 14th Smithsonian Secretary effective June 16.
Bunch is the first African American, and the first historian elected Secretary of the Smithsonian, which was founded in 1846 with a bequest from British scientist James Smithson.
The Washington, D.C.-based Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum, education and research complex with 19 museums and the National Zoological Park.
Bunch is founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in September 2016.
Previously, Bunch was president of the Chicago Historical Society, one of the nation’s oldest museums of history.
“I am humbled and honored to become the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution,” Bunch said. “I am excited to work with the Board of Regents and my colleagues throughout the Institution to build upon its legacy and to ensure that the Smithsonian will be even more relevant and more meaningful and reach more people in the future.”

Justice Department reopens Emmett Till murder case

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

Emmett Till

The U.S. Department of Justice has once again reopened the infamous Emmett Till case. The 1955 murder case was a major turning point in the Civil Rights Movement and one of the most notorious murders in United States history.In August 28, 1955, Emmett Till, who was 14, was murdered in the town of Money, Mississippi by Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam after Bryant’s wife Carolyn alleged that Till whistled at her and groped her. Bryant and Milam abducted Emmett Till from the home of his great-uncle, beat him, shot him in the head and dumped his body in the Tallahatchie River. Till’s body was weighted down by a cast iron cotton gin pulley. Three days later his corpse was recovered from the river. Till’s body was sent to his mother, Mamie Carthan Till, in Chicago. She demanded that her son would have an open casket funeral. The decision would lead to worldwide press attention after hundreds of attendees were given full view of Till’s mutilated corpse. The Black Press, led by Jet magazine, widely covered Till’s murder, featuring several jarring photos. In a Justice Department statement on July 13, the reason given for reopening the Till investigation was related to, “receiving new information.” However, the Justice Department did not detail exactly what the new information was. According to USA Today, the decision was revealed to Congress in a February report, but it is unclear what the Justice Department is prepared to act on. In September 1955, Bryant and Milam were acquitted by an all-White jury after less than 90 minutes of deliberation. Till’s murderers later admitted to the crime in a 1956 interview for LOOK magazine. Bryant died in 1994 and Milam died in 1980. reported that, “‘Several interested parties’ asked the Justice Department in 2004 whether any surviving suspects could be prosecuted.” At the time the Justice Department determined that the statute of limitations prevented any federal prosecution, according to “Three years later, a Mississippi grand jury declined to issue new charges,” reported. Many have speculated that the reopening of Emmett Till’s death by the Justice Department is related to last year’s publication of the book “The Blood of Emmett Till,” by author Tim Tyson. Tyson’s book revealed that Bryant’s ex-wife, Carolyn Bryant Donham admitted in 2008 that she lied when she claimed Till whistled at her, a tale she would later tell her husband that set off a chain of events leading to Till’s murder. In 1955 Carolyn Bryant Donham was 21 year-old former beauty queen; now, she’s more than 80 year-old and living in North Carolina. The original casket of Emmett Till was donated to the Smithsonian Institution and is now displayed at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. “The story of Emmett Till is one of the most important of the last half of the 20th century. And an important element was the casket,” said Lonnie Bunch, the director of NMAAHC, in a 2009 interview with The Washington Post. “It is an object that allows us to tell the story, to feel the pain and understand loss.” Bunch continued: “I want people to feel like I did. I want people to feel the complexity of emotions.”

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist, political analyst and contributor to the NNPA Newswire and You can reach Lauren by email at and on Twitter at @LVBurke. This article was originally published at


A Noose was found in the Smithsonian’s African American History Museum

By: Aric Jenkins, Time Magazine
NMAAHC building in D. C.
NMAAHC in Washington, near Washington monument

A noose was found on the floor of an exhibition in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Wednesday, leading museum officials to remove visitors from that section of the facility.
The rope — which was left in an exhibition on segregation — was the second time this week a noose was found on the grounds of a Smithsonian institution, BuzzFeed News first reported.
Park police investigated the incident and removed the rope, allowing the exhibit gallery to reopen within several hours, Smithsonian officials said, according to the Smithsonian magazine.
“The noose has long represented a deplorable act of cowardice and depravity — a symbol of extreme violence for African Americans. Today’s incident is a painful reminder of the challenges that African Americans continue to face. Our Museum is a place of learning an solace, a place to remember, to engage in important discussions to help change America,” Lonnie Bunch, the director of the museum, said in a statement.

On Saturday, a noose was found hanging from a tree outside of the Hirshhorn Museum — another Smithsonian institution that showcases contemporary art.
“I don’t know what to say,” Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas told BuzzFeed after Wednesday’s discovery.”We do consider this one to be different,” she added. “In this case it’s clearly a message to the museum.”
Nooses were often used in lynchings of African Americans throughout the periods of slavery and Jim Crow laws and can be interpreted as a painful symbol of those eras of discrimination.
Park Police are continuing their investigation of both incidents, according to reports. A spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Obama: Low turnout by Black voters would be ‘a personal insult’; ‘You want to give me a good send-off? go vote!’

By: Elise Foley Immigration & Politics Reporter, The Huffington Post


President Obama at Black Congressional Caucus Dinner

President Barack Obama told a predominantly black audience on Saturday that if they want to protect everything the community has fought for over the past eight years, they can’t let voter turnout fall now that he’s off the ballot.

“I will consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy, if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election,” he said at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation conference. “You want to give me a good send-off? Go vote.”

It was Obama’s last speech as president at the annual event, and served as both a reflection on his presidency and a rallying cry for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who spoke earlier in the evening and who he said is the only candidate who can continue his legacy. Although Obama isn’t running for re-election, “Hope is on the ballot, and fear is on the ballot too,” he said.

The line about fear was one of many references to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, a man who tried for years to delegitimize Obama’s presidency by claiming he likely lied about being born in the United States. Trump finally said on Friday that he accepted that Obama was born in the U.S. ― while still lying about his own history as a birther and patting himself on the back for his role in urging the president to release a long-form birth certificate in 2011.

Obama kicked off his speech by feigning relief over Trump’s comments, as he did on Friday.

“There’s an extra spring in my step tonight. I don’t know about you guys, but I am so relieved that the whole birther thing is over,” Obama said. “I mean, ISIL, North Korea, poverty, climate change ― none of those things weighed on my mind like the validity of my birth certificate. And to think that with just 124 days to go, under the wire we got that resolved. That’s a boost for me in the home stretch.”

“In other breaking news, the world is round, not flat,” he added with a laugh.

Obama also mocked Trump’s claim that being a black person in the U.S. is so bad now that black voters should support the Republican because, in Trump’s own words, “What the hell do you have to lose?”

Trump must have “missed that whole civics lesson about slavery and Jim Crow ― but we’ve got a museum for him to visit so he can tune in,” Obama said, referring to the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, which he said he’d toured earlier.

“[Trump] says we’ve got nothing left to lose, so we might as well support somebody who has fought against civil rights and fought against equality and who has shown no regard for working people for most of his life,” Obama said. “Well, we do have challenges. But we’re not stupid.”

“We know the progress we’ve made, despite the forces of opposition, despite the forces of discrimination, despite the politics of backlash,” he continued, “And we intend to keep fighting against those forces.”

Clinton’s speech was shorter and not as fiery, and was spent largely praising Obama and first lady Michelle Obama for what they’ve done for the country.

“I know I speak for not just everyone in this room but so many tens of millions of Americans: Mr. President, not only do we know you are an American, you’re a great American and you make us all proud to be Americans too,” Clinton said after receiving the organization’s Trailblazer Award.

She said she would not take for granted the vote of anyone in the room, and contrasted her vision with Trump’s.

“We need ideas, not insults. Real plans to help struggling Americans in communities that have been left out and left behind; not prejudice and paranoia,” Clinton said. “We can’t let Barack Obama’s legacy fall into the hands of someone who doesn’t understand that ― whose dangerous and divisive vision for our country will drag us backwards. Instead, we need to come together.”


African American museum designed with emotions in mind

By Peggy McGlone , Washington Post

Slave shackles

Small shackles from the 1800s are among the artifacts that will be on display at National Museum of African American History and Culture. (Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture)

They are heartbreakingly small, these rough-hewn iron shackles with openings that are just 21/2 inches in diameter. They are menacing, too, their five-pound bulk disturbingly heavy for the tiny wrists they confined. Despite their small size, they deliver a gut punch by summoning the horror and humanity of the slave trade in a way that no history textbook could ever do. The shackles are among the thousands of items that will be on view at the National Museum of African American History and Culture when it opens Sept. 24. These artifacts will tell stories of slavery, Reconstruction, segregation and the civil rights movement. Museum officials anticipate tears, sighs and even some anger as visitors proceed through the galleries.
The visitor experience has been a priority from the beginning, addressed in the design of the building, the organization of exhibitions, and the text and videos that supplement the displays. And now, with less than six months to opening, the effort turns to the front lines, to the staff and volunteers who will interact with visitors.
“Not a lot of (other institutions) are taking on, head on, one of the most difficult things society is facing today, which is the history of our country and how that impacts today,” said Esther Washington, the museum’s director of education. “The idea of letting people sit with a little bit of discomfort is something we have to do because of the stories we have in the museum.”
Louise Lawrence-Israëls knows firsthand about the difficulty of talking about race, identify and social justice. The 73-year-old Bethesda resident is a volunteer at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where for 22 years she has encountered a range of responses, from shock to tears to surprise. The work is exhausting — though she doesn’t notice until she gets home after a day of tours or talks.
“It is not tiring for me when I’m doing it. It’s uplifting,” she said. “It’s so important that you can make an impact on people. People just don’t know. It’s baffling how little they know.”
Lawrence-Israëls was a “hidden child” who was not sent to the camps. She says visitors reveal their emotions by grabbing her arm or taking her hand, and they often ask personal questions (“Do you still believe in God?” is a common one). “They can’t believe anyone has survived that,” she said. “It’s too much for them.”
Officials with the African American museum turned to their colleagues at the Holocaust museum and the National September 11 Memorial Museum for advice. They are among some 200 museums in the United States that focus on difficult subjects, from the Holocaust to terrorism to World War II, according to the American Alliance of Museums. Their experts say a critical first step is acknowledging the difficulty of some of the exhibitions and the conversations they will prompt.
“There’s no such thing as harder, or hardest. There’s just hard,” explained Sarah Pharaon of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, a network of memorials, museums and historic sites. “This is history that is personal, and creating an atmosphere that allows for people to share their personal truths is vital.”
Design is also critical. Many museums have incorporated spaces for reflection and quiet. The Holocaust museum, for example, includes spaces on every floor and a Hall of Remembrance. The 9/11 museum places its more challenging exhibits in alcoves that can be bypassed and has spaced early exits along the gallery.
“There are visitors who don’t want to have the whole experience. They’ve had enough,” said Clifford Chanin, the 9/11 museum’s vice president of education and public programs. “We’re allowing visitors to make choices within our choices.”
Smithsonian Secretary David J. Skorton praised the African American museum for anticipating the need for visitors to decompress. “The sensitivity of the designers, especially director Lonnie Bunch, the thinking that went into it, even includes some contemplative space, so after being face to face with areas of tragedy or challenge, there is a space for someone to reflect,” Skorton said.