- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2001

Four U.S. senators have introduced a bill to establish — on or near the National Mall — a museum that would document the struggles of black Americans in their march toward full citizenship.
The National Museum of African-American History and Culture would house a permanent collection of artifacts showcasing the period of enslavement, the era of Reconstruction, and the civil rights movement.
"A museum that recognizes and chronicles the African-American experience is critically important to understanding the full breadth of our nations history," said Sen. Max Cleland, Georgia Democrat, who co-sponsored the bill.
"This segment of our society has a history, a culture and an identity so unique that a museum to chronicle the story will be an enriching, inspiring opportunity for everyone who visits it," Mr. Cleland said.
The project currently is estimated at $25 million, and if approved, would be funded through a federal-private partnership.
The senators have asked that the museum be housed in the Arts and Industries Building of the Smithsonian Institution on Jefferson Drive. It would be the first museum of its kind to be located on the Mall.
"The Mall is like the front yard of our country and we really want a museum like this to be there," said Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, who co-sponsored the bill last week. "We want a museum like this to be placed somewhere where everyone can see it."
Sens. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, also co-sponsored the bill, along with Reps. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat, and J.C. Watts Jr., Oklahoma Republican.
Mr. Lewis, who was a hero in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, initiated efforts for construction of such a museum in the late 1980s. But no attempts to enact the measure had passed the House and Senate simultaneously.
The latest legislation would establish a council to oversee the planning, design, renovation and initial management of the museum. The senators had looked at other sites, including one building near the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum at 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place SW, before settling on the Smithsonian.
However, no permanent site for the museum has been named.
Smithsonian officials yesterday declined to comment on the proposed museum. "We cant comment on pending legislation," said Linda St. Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Smithsonian.
However, Miss St. Thomas did confirm that there is available space in the Arts and Industries Building, which houses visiting exhibits, including one from the Anacostia Museum and Center for African-American History and Culture. She also said the 120-year-old building is in need of major renovations.
Establishing a national museum that recognizes the troubles and contributions of black Americans could be one step toward reconciling tension between races, some senators said.
"We dont pretend that our legislation is a cure-all for the problem of racial division," Mr. Brownback said yesterday. "It can, however, be an important and productive step toward healing our nations racial wounds."
Mr. Santorum said the struggles of black Americans should be documented in a museum because their history played an integral role in the countrys development.
"From slavery to the modern civil rights movement, African-Americans sacrificed life, liberty and their own pursuit of happiness in order to attain these very same ideals for those who would follow in their footsteps," Mr. Santorum said.
The proposed museum has received support from many local advocacy organizations, including the Center for New Black Leadership, which calls the project "long overdue."
"This is a good idea," said Phyllis Berry Myers, the groups executive director. "Its wonderful to finally have something that is consolidated in the nations capital. The more people understand our history, the better it will be. Knowledge is always helpful."


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