First African American to Lead Smithsonian Institution

Lonnie G. Bunch III


Lonnie G. Bunch III is an American educator and historian who has spent most of his career as a history museum curator and administrator. He is the founding director of the National Museum of African American History in Washington, DC and has been named the new leader of all Smithsonian museums on May 28, 2019.  There are currently nineteen museums that Bunch will be leading, while making sure his current museum doesn’t get ‘watered down’, or lose it’s purpose.


Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education and research facility housing not only nineteen museums, but the National Zoological Park in DC’s North West region as well. When Bunch started working on the Smithsonian’s first black museum, he had no collection, no building and only one employee. He describes being director of the National Museum of African American History as the ‘job of his career’ and the ‘best thing [he’s] ever done’ in an interview with USA Today.  Although he is thrilled about his promotion, he is adamant about making sure the museum keeps it’s purpose alive – showing the people that African American history is a part of who we are as American’s.


“No matter what happens, the Smithsonian will always be that place to help us understand a diverse America.”

– Lonnie Bunch

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