Oprah leads black celebrities in drive to set up African-American museum on Washington Mall

Clothes worn by protesters in the March on Washington in 1963, chains from the slave ships that came from Africa, and photographs of lynchings in the Deep South are among the items to be displayed in a national American museum dedicated to black history.

The chat-show host Oprah Winfrey, the music producer Quincy Jones and Bob Johnson, founder of the Black Entertainment Channel, are among a group of high-profile black Americans leading efforts to raise funds for the museum, which is likely to find a home on Washington's Mall.

Plans to build such a museum have long been hampered by lack of money, lack of interest and an undercurrent of racism. But decades after the plan was first proposed, Congress has finally given its approval and the group of black celebrities is poised to launch a drive to raise $250m (£133m) to help fund the project. The remaining $500m will come from federal funds.

Brenda Jones, a spokeswoman for a Georgia Congressman, John Lewis, who has led the effort to establish the museum, said that the time it had taken "speaks to the dynamics of politics in America and a lack of understanding of African-American history and the width and the breadth of their contribution to American society". She said opponents of the scheme eventually felt that "there was just no reason not to recognise the contribution".

Mr Lewis, a civil rights leader in the 1960s who helped to organise the 1963 march, when hundreds of thousands travelled to Washington in support of voting rights and heard Dr Martin Luther King deliver his "I Have ADream" speech, began campaigning for a museum when he was elected to Congress in 1986. He became aware of a previous effort made by African-American veterans of the US Civil War, and took up the campaign. In every session of Congress between 1988 to 2003 he introduced legislation to fund such a museum. In November 2003, Congress voted to do so. The National Museum of African-American History and Culture will be part of the extensive Smithsonian Institution, which oversees and co-ordinates many leading museums in Washington, including its most recent addition, the National Museum of the American Indian. Officials from the institution are currently deciding where the new museum should be established. Mr Lewis wants it to be on the Mall, its central location symbolic of the integral role of black Americans. Mr Lewis is also adamant that it should be as extensive as possible, covering everything from the slave ships that left Senegal right up to last November's election to the Senate of the black Chicagoan Barack Obama.

The move comes at a time of growing interest in black history. The Chicago-based HistoryMakers project was established three years ago to build a video archive of oral black history. Researchers and producers are aiming to interview more than 5,000 black Americans. Some of those who have been interviewed, such as the singer Harry Belafonte and the actor Danny Glover, are well known. Others, such as Henry Presswood, who played professional baseball when blacks were banned from the major leagues, are known only to specialists.

"I don't know why it has taken so long," said Larry Crowe, one of the HistoryMakers' producers, of the museums project. "It's been a slow process. Around 1991-92 I started to notice there was more about black history appearing in the media, on TV and in movies. But there is still not enough. We have so many good stories to tell, so many lessons to learn."

Patrick Swygert, president of Washington's Howard University, a traditionally black college, said he believed the museum must take a different approach to most. He told USA Today: "When you walk in, it should be a sense of the sweep of American history and the African-American role in the sweep of that history. It should not simply be a history of 'firsts'. When we think of museums we tend to think in the past tense. This, to me, should be a living, breathing place."

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SSIS/ORACLE DBA

£400 - £401 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SSIS Administrat...

The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Technical Systems Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Technical Systems Analyst

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform