Museum News

Statement on the Death of Historian, Writer and Curator Maurice Berger

March 23, 2020
Historian Maurice Berger Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for International Center of Photography

Spencer Crew, interim director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, today March 23, released the following statement on the passing of Maurice Berger, historian, writer and curator whose work helped shape the nation’s narrative about race. He died March 22 at 63.  

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Maurice Berger, a scholar and an activist who used his gifts and found compelling ways to connect with audiences around the world. He was a writer and a curator, a college professor and a public speaker who paid close attention to the cultural landscape of the nation. His intent was always focused and aimed at urging people to look beneath the surface of day-to-day activities and ask the tough questions about racism, sexism and classism. Whether writing on the searing power of the photographs of Gordon Parks or the terrifying presence of the Ku Klux Klan in 21st-century America, Maurice Berger moved us to recognize and grapple with racism—both overt and covert.  

His connection to this museum was strong and powerful. Drawing on his extraordinary talent for research and narrative shaping, he worked with the museum to curate ‘For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights.’ This collection of messages, drawn from nearly 300 objects and TV and film clips from the late 1940s to 1970s, was on view in 2011 in the NMAAHC Gallery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, toured widely and won several major awards, helping to broaden the range of voices contributing to the history of this nation. 

Maurice Berger will be remembered as an original thinker and an intellectual pioneer who greatly contributed to the art world. We will miss him as we continue to be moved by what he had to say and all he dared to do.”   

For more on this exhibition and what Maurice Berger had to say, click here.   


About the National Museum of African American History and Culture  
Since opening Sept. 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has welcomed more than 6 million visitors. Occupying a prominent location next to the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the nearly 400,000-square-foot museum is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. For more information about the museum, visit, follow @NMAAHC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or call Smithsonian information at (202) 633-1000. 

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Media Contact(s): 

Jermaine House (202) 633-9495; 
Jason Spear (202) 633-9904; 

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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.