President Barack Obama said in a speech Saturday night at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation dinner in Washington, D.C., that Republican presidential candidate Trump tells people “there’s never been a worse time to be a Black person” in America.
Trump “missed that whole civics lesson about slavery and Jim Crow,” Obama said. “We’ve got a museum for him to visit. So he can tune in. We will educate him.”
Obama was referring to the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture opening on the Mall in Washington on Saturday. The museum is a testament to the arc of African American progress, taking visitors on a journey beginning with slavery to the modern era.
Obama described his visit to the museum last week with First Lady Michelle Obama, his mother-in-law and his daughters Sasha and Malia.
“We looked at the shackles that had been used to bring folks over,” he said. “We saw the shacks where slaves had been trying to make a way out of no way. And then, with each successive level, we saw the unimaginable courage and the struggles and the sacrifices and the humor and the innovation and the hope that led to such extraordinary progress, even in our own lifetimes.
“And, it made us proud. Not because we had arrived, but because what a road we had to travel. What a miracle that despite such hardship, we’ve been able to do so much.”
The struggle for voting rights is well documented within the museum. Obama said to the audience not to take that right for granted, as people were “beaten trying to register voters in Mississippi” and “risked everything so that they could pull that lever.”
He continued, “So, if I hear anybody saying their vote does not matter, that it doesn’t matter who we elect … read up on your history, it matters.
“My name may not be on the ballot, but our progress is on the ballot. Tolerance is on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot. Justice is on the ballot. Good schools are on the ballot. Ending mass incarceration, that’s on the ballot right now. And there is one candidate who will advance those things. And there’s another candidate whose defining principle, the central theme of his candidacy, is opposition to all that we’ve done.
“After we have received historic turnout in 2008 and 2012, especially in the African American community, I will consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election. You want to give me a good sendoff? Go vote.”
The museum, a 400,000-square-foot building, was built on a five-acre tract adjacent to the Washington Monument at a cost of approximately $540 million. The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation, the namesake of the media mogul and philanthropist, donated $21 million toward the construction of the museum – the largest single donation. Since 2004, Winfrey has been a member of the museum’s advisory council.
Several of DiversityInc’s 2016 Top 50 Companies for Diversity have made donations to the museum, including:
Target (No. 22), $7.05 million; Kaiser Permanente (No. 1), $7 million; Boeing and Walmart, (both on DiversityInc’s 25 Noteworthy Companies list), $5 million or more each; Johnson & Johnson (No. 8), Medtronic Foundation (No. 50), Northrop Grumman (No. 31), Prudential Financial (No. 10), Time Warner Foundation (No. 37),The Walt Disney Company (No. 38) and Toyota (No. 34), each donated $ 2 million or more; and Aetna Foundation, Inc. (No. 32), Altria Group (DiversityInc Noteworthy Company), AT&T (No. 4), Caterpillar (DiversityInc Noteworthy Company), General Mills Foundation (No. 40), General Motors (No. 48), IBM (No. 20), Intel Corporation and Morgan Stanley (both DiversityInc Noteworthy Companies), New York Life (No. 23), Southern Company Charitable Foundation, Inc. (No. 46) and Wells Fargo (No. 12), each donated $1 million or more.
‘Dream a World Anew’
Both the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the publication of its accompanying 288-page book, “Dream a World Anew,” seek to reframe our understanding of Black history by centralizing the African American experience.
“Dream a World Anew,” (Smithsonian Books), to be released on September 27, uses stories and objects from the museum to take readers on a journey from slavery, abolition and Reconstruction, the Civil War and the civil rights era to modern times. Through insightful writing by various scholars and incorporation of captivating photos, the pain, tragedy, joy and triumph of the African American experience creates a gripping narrative.
It rivals any school textbook that discusses the Black experience in America. For example, depiction of slavery in textbooks has been an issue of controversy.
Last October, a Texas mother and educator used the force of social media to hold publishing giant McGraw-Hill Education accountable for misrepresenting slavery.
Roni Dean-Burren of Pearland, Texas, received a text message from her 15-year-old son, Coby, with a photo of a caption from the “Patterns of Immigration” section of his “World Geography” that troubled him:
“The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.”
Not only are African slaves referred to as “workers,” but also the title of the section implies that they were immigrants instead of having been captured, enslaved and held against their will.
In 2010, the Texas Board of Education, a 15-member elected panel dominated by Republicans, approved a revised social studies curriculum for 7th and 8th grades as well as high school students, which went into effect in 2015. Textbooks published by certain companies, including McGraw-Hill, are said to reflect a more conservative view of U.S. history.