Museum News

Lonnie Bunch on Bill Cosby and the National Museum of African American History and Culture

March 31, 2016

There have been many misconceptions and mistaken notions about the presence of two objects relating to Bill Cosby’s career within the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s exhibition, “Taking the Stage,” that explores the history of African American participation in film, theater and television. This is not an exhibition that “honors or celebrates” Bill Cosby but one that acknowledges his role, among many others, in American entertainment. Some people believe that the Smithsonian should eliminate all mention of Bill Cosby as a result of recent revelations. We understand but respectfully disagree. For too long, aspects of African American history have been erased and undervalued, creating an incomplete interpretation of the American past. This museum seeks to tell, in the words of the eminent historian John Hope Franklin, “the unvarnished truth” that will help our visitors to remember and better understand what has often been erased and forgotten. In view of Cosby’s recent sexual assault conviction and sentencing, the museum will change the exhibition label to reflect this.

Lonnie Bunch, Founding Director
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

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The National Museum of African American History and Culture will be a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped us shape this nation. A place that transcends the boundaries of race and culture that divide us, and becomes a lens into a story that unites us all.