Museum News

Statement on the Passing of Esteemed Baltimore Congressman Elijah Cummings

October 18, 2019
Baltimore Congressman Elijah Cummings Ken Cedeno / Contributor/Getty Images

Spencer Crew, interim director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, released the following statement today, Oct. 18, on the death of longtime Baltimore Congressman and civil rights champion Elijah Cummings.

“It is with deep sadness that we at the National Museum of African American History and Culture mourn the passing of Congressman Elijah Cummings. As a lifelong champion of human rights and social justice, and a steadfast public servant, Cummings rose to become one of the most powerful figures in Congress. He provided a constant moral compass in the House of Representatives as he worked tirelessly to uphold the highest standards of dignity, honor and trust. 

The son of former sharecroppers, Cummings was born and raised in Baltimore. He earned his bachelor’s degree from historic Howard University and later obtained a law degree from the University of Maryland. Cummings credited his parents with instilling in him the values of education and public service.  He once said that his father told him, “Son, the test of a man is not how much he helps himself; the true test is whether he helps those less fortunate.” Heeding his father’s words, Cummings lived a life dedicated to empowering and uplifting others through public service.  

Cummings began his career in public service in the Maryland House of Delegates, where he served for 14 years, later becoming the first African American in Maryland state history to become Speaker Pro Tem. During his years representing West Baltimore in the Maryland State House, Cummings would come to be known as a moral force in his community, championing issues of better health care, gun control and economic development. In 1996, Cummings was elected to Congress, where he continued to champion those same issues on a broader scale. For more than two decades, Cummings was an essential fixture in the U.S. House of Representatives, leading progressive charges. During his tenure as chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, he was looked to as a voice of reason and discernment on difficult issues that impact our country's values and principles. Cummings not only valiantly represented his home district of Baltimore, he was truly a representative for the greater United States of America.

Cummings will be remembered for his devotion to the city of Baltimore, his sound moral compass, his ability to build relationships across political party and background and his willingness to fight for what was right.   


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.

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.