Will White People Go to the National Black Museum?

The Smithsonian's new national black museum hasn't integrated Washington, D.C.'s whitest address yet, and it's already dodging spitballs from Congress.

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Moran may be right that white people may not go to a black museum. The whole enterprise may, as he argues, represent the balkanization of American history. One could justifiably pile on, as other prominent black historians have, that a black museum represents the ghettoization of black history. The late, great historian John Hope Franklin, for instance, as Henry Louis Gates Jr. noted, spent a career arguing that his work chronicling the black experience belonged not in "black studies" but at the very center of American history.

Moving on to the Mall will sometimes be awkward and sometimes hostile -- as those of us who have integrated an all-white neighborhood or school know firsthand. The Mall may become "overcrowded" with a cacophony of colors and stories, as Rep. Moran predicted. But a true, comprehensive, warts-and-all account of how America came to be demands it. If it cares about telling the truth about itself, Congress should fully support this enterprise, at any cost.

Writing in 1998, nearly two decades before the dream of a black museum was scheduled to come to life in 2015, Ruffins put it best: 

We know the name of King, but we do not know the names of all the others who were murdered trying to vote in the South, or the millions of Native Americans who were killed for their lands, or the millions who were caught up in the bloody maw of the Third Reich. To remember them, all nations build memorials and sometimes even museums.

Natalie Hopkinson is a contributing editor to The Root. Follow her on Twitter.

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Natalie Hopkinson is a Washington, D.C.-based author whose current projects deal with the arts, gender and public life. She is the author of Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City. Follow her on Twitter.

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