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January 27th, 2016

African American National Museum Opens

William Reed
Black slaves built the Capitol and White House for free.  But, the roles that Blacks in building business should be recognized in constructing the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).  The Smithsonian Institution museum is on a five-acre tract a five-acre site on the National Mall, adjacent to the Washington Monument on Constitution Avenue between 14th and 15th streets in Northwest D.C.

The public should be proud of the Blacks making the museum and a reality.  When it opens in 2016, the NMAAHC will feature exhibition space for African American history and culture, as well as a centerpiece venue for ceremonies and performances.  It will be a place to learn about the richness and diversity of the Black experience in America experience, and what it means to Blacks.  The National Museum was created in 2003 by an Act of Congress, establishing it as part of the Smithsonian Institution. This site is between the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. This museum will be the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, art, history and culture.

Black pride is a movement encouraging people to take pride in themselves and their ethnicity, and is being celebrated by more and more African Americans. The NMAAHC is fine example of Black pride and how the movement permeated into the work of African American popular musicians.  The Impressions’ song “We’re a Winner” became a movement virtual anthem, as did James Brown’s “Say It Loud –I’m Black and I’m Proud.

The museum’s director, Lonnie G. Bunch III calls it a place that “manifests the dreams of many generations.”  Bunch, who has spent the last 30 years in the field, is regarded as one of the nation’s leading history and museum professionals.   Bunch has done a outstanding job garnering funding for the museum and gotten 82,000 people join as contributing museum members.

The concept for the NMAAHC goes back to the early 1980s, when Tom Mack (the African-American chairman of Tourmobile, a tourist bus company) founded the National Council of Education and Economic Development (NCEED).  Mack’s intention was to use the non-profit group to advance his ideas about economic development, education, and the arts among African Americans.  Mack was a major player in the nation’s capital’s $6.2 billion tourism industry, as owner of Landmark Services Parking and the Hospitality and Transportation Services joint venture.

The companies Bunch chose to build the NMAAHC have strong bona fides in construction and as pillars in their communities.  Construction is being done by Clark Construction Group, Smoot Construction, and H.J. Russell & Company. Clark was awarded a $290 million construction contract as part of a joint venture with Smoot Construction and H.J. Russell & Company, two of the largest minority-owned construction firms in the nation.  The Clark/Smoot/Russell team is made up of three distinguished and diverse companies with unparalleled experience in building museum projects.  Clark Construction Group is headquartered in Bethesda, Md. and has annual revenue in excess of $4 billion.  Smoot Construction is one of the largest minority-owned construction firms in the country.  The Smoot Corporation’s entities trace their roots back to 1946 to the commercial masonry contracting business established by Sherman R. Smoot, in Charleston, W.Va.  Since its founding in 1952 by the late H.J. Russell, the company grew became the fourth-largest minority-owned business in the nation.  The architectural and engineering firm of McKissack & McKissack (which was the first African American-owned architectural firm in the United States) was founded in 1905, by brothers Calvin Lunsford and Moses McKissack III whose father and grandfather were trained builders. The NMAAHC will be the deepest museum on the National Mall.  Excavators dug 80 feet below grade to lay the foundations.  Mass excavation being done by third-generation Black construction firm is nearly complete.  Almost 350,000 cubic yards of material will be excavated during construction - enough to fill 32,000 dump trucks.  Washington, D,C.-based Shelton Federal Group, LLC is headed by Rose Shelton - its predecessor is R S Shelton Landscaping Excavating And Hauling Inc.
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