Nov. 6, 2019

Interesting Black Factoid: Lonnie Bunch's Elevation To Smithsonian Museum Secretary

When the original Smithsonian Museum was completed in 1846 there was a holding pen for black slaves in the back of the museum. The holding pen was owned by William H. Williams who was a notorious slave trader. It was behind and east of the original Smithsonian Museum in plain view of the U.S. Capitol. The pen's primary usage was holding slaves sold at auction and headed to the deep south. On November 1, 2019, Mr. Lonnie Bunch, an African American whose family ancestral routes certainly trackback to slavery in this nation became the very first African American to become Secretary of the entire museum complexes. As founding director of the Museum (and, previously, as a staff member and scholar at both the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum), he is uniquely prepared to lead the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, 21 libraries, the National Zoo, numerous research centers, and multiple education units and centers. This honor is well deserved as Dr. Bunch has provided the leadership in establishing the most visible of the Smithsonian Museums, The National Museum of African American History. Just think the original Secretary had a visible sightline to Williams's slave pen. I am sure that never in Joseph Henry's mind did he think that one day a descendant of slaves would be elevated to the position of Secretary of the Smithsonian Museum.