Today in labor history: National Museum of African American History signed into law

On this day in 2003 HR 3491, a bill establishing a National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in the Smithsonian, was signed into law at the White House. It is the only national museum devoted to the study of black life and culture.

Efforts to found such an institution began in the early 20th Century with the appointment of a commission by Herbert Hoover that included Mary Church Terrell. She was a daughter of former slaves and one of the first African-American women to earn a college degree. Mary Church Terrell had a long career fighting for women and minorities.

In the 1980s, Rep. Mickey Leland (1944-1989) began to champion the idea of an museum on the National Mall. Lelnd was a Democratic congressman from Texas and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Famed civil rights leader Rep. John R. Lewis soon became a supporter. In 2001 Rep. Lewis reintroduced legislation during the Bush years with a GOP co-sponsor. The museum’s construction is to be completed by 2016.  The bill was signed into law by G.W. Bush.

Photo: Construction site, January 20, 2013, Dmitri Popov. CC BY-SA 3.0



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