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How Black Philanthropy Helped Build The National Museum Of African American History & Culture

How Black Philanthropy Helped Build The National Museum Of African American History & Culture

By Victor Ochieng

Over a period of 45 days, Black Enterprise is sharing 45 milestones made by Black-owned businesses that have resulted in notable economic impact within the African-American communities over the past 40 years. BE is sharing the information as part of the celebration of BE 100s yearly list of the largest Black-owned businesses.

Number 35 in the “45 Great Moments in Black Business” is the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. In sharing about NMAAHC, BE gives credit to some of the companies and individuals who gave generously to see the project through.

“Today, we begin to make manifest on this Mall, on this sacred space, the dreams of many generations who fought for and believe there should be a site in the nation’s capital that will help all Americans remember and honor African American history and culture. But equally important to this vision was the need to make better all who visit the National Museum, by using African American culture as a lens to more clearly understand what it means to be an American.” —Lonnie Bunch III

Those were the exact words delivered by NMAAHC’s founding director about 5 years ago, while in front of an audience comprised of political and business leaders, including President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

It’s not wrong to say NMAAHC went down as the biggest African American-steered philanthropic project. It took a lot of skills, energy and financial support to realize it. From serious strategic planning to exemplary execution, from sums totaling $540 billion to a lot of goodwill, notable Black business leaders gave so much. The monumental project was launched in September 2016 at a time President Obama, the first ever African-American president was still in office.

The completion of NMAAHC is a show that Black people if united, are capable of doing momentous projects.

Billionaire Winfrey Oprah, Chairman and CEO, OWN and Harpo Inc., is one of those who supported the NMAAHC, serving as a founding council member and, of course, a founding donor to the project.

Other founding donors whose roles cannot go unmentioned are Vista Equity Partners CEO Robert F. Smith, CEO of Ebony Media Operations Linda Johnson Rice; Chairman & CEO, RLJ McLarty Landers Holdings L.L.C. Robert L. Johnson; Chairman & CEO, Stafford Foundation Inc. Earl W. Stafford and Co-Chairman Emeritus, SENTEL Corp. Robert L. Wright and more.

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