Officials in Washington broke ground on the National Museum of African American History and Culture museum Wednesday, a project that is “long overdue,” said Columbus philanthropist Robert Wright.
Wright was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to a committee to push for the creation of a national black history museum and was present at the museum’s groundbreaking.
“It’s long overdue, because the story of African Americans coming to this country needs to be told,” said Wright, an optometrist who started a small military logistics business and ultimately sold it to a major defense contractor. He is also chair of the Columbus Office of Crime Prevention.
Wright said the $1.5 billion museum will be on the National Mall, and will be part of the Smithsonian Institution.
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The museum would be “all-inclusive,” Wright said, telling black history from slavery up to the election of Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president. Some exhibits will eventually include a Jim Crow-era segregated railroad car and galleries devoted to military and sports history.
“Nothing will be eliminated, overlooked or left out,” he said.
The museum’s groundbreaking also marks the start of a public fundraising campaign. About $100 million has been raised in private funds, including $5 million gifts from businesses like Wal-Mart, Boeing and Target. Aflac, a Columbus-based insurance company, was the first corporate citizen donor and gave $1 million to the museum in June 2005. Wright sits on the Aflac board of directors.
“We felt it was important to lead the way in contributing to this cause,” said Laura Kane, spokesperson for Aflac. “The museum will serve as a great way to spotlight American history and highlight the African American experience.”
The museum is scheduled to be finished in 2015.
For more information about the National Museum of African American History and Culture, visit http://nmaahc.si.edu/