A King-Sized Absence Marks the New African-American Museum

A building that was 89 years in the making finally became a reality on September 24 when the National Museum of African-American History and Culture was officially dedicated. Attending the opening ceremonies were President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush.

The timing of the building’s opening was somewhat ironic, due to concurrent racial controversies in Tulsa and Charlotte over the death of African-Americans at the hands of policemen.

It was African-American veterans of the Civil War that first suggested the idea of a museum-in 1915. However, it wasn’t until 1929 that any legislation was passed to build it, with the Depression eliminating any chance of moving forward. Over this long span, attempts were made to get the project started, something that didn’t occur until 2003.

As with any situation involving race in America, there were controversies involving some of the items that AREN’T among the 36,000 artifacts. For example, no major items from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., are seen due to his family’s insistence on obtaining money for items that the museum would like to display.

While that attitude is apparently not universal among King’s surviving children, the infighting and conflict has been commonplace for much of the past two decades. Two of King’s most trusted lieutenants in the Civil Rights movement, Andrew Young and Harry Belafonte, have become embroiled in debates over their use of material with connections to King. In Belafonte’s case, his issue ended up in litigation.

Another controversy was specifically related to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts speaking before attendees. Critics pointed out that Roberts cast the deciding vote in a 2013 case that eliminated a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that was passed to help African-Americans in their effort to vote.

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