This week, I am honored to witness the opening of a new landmark in the heart of our nation’s capital that will tell the history of the African-American experience. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is opening on Washington D.C.’s National Mall as the only national museum devoted to African-American history and culture, and I am proud to partner with the Smithsonian on behalf of Microsoft to tell these stories.
We believe the art, culture and stories of African-Americans are vibrant and important narratives in our nation’s history. That’s why in March, Microsoft made a $1 million donation to the museum, to help bring these perspectives to life in a powerful and enriching experience.
Microsoft’s support of the National Museum of African American History and Culture is part of our longstanding commitment to foster diversity, equity and inclusion in everything we do – both at our company and in our communities. Providing an inclusive forum for African-American history and culture will promote diversity of thought, ideas and understanding, which is what Microsoft believes drives progress and innovation.
The museum opening is also important to me personally. I spent my childhood on the campuses of two historically black colleges and universities – Tennessee State University and Florida A&M University –where my father was university president. There, the stories of dreams, accomplishments and struggles of African-Americans throughout history were all around me. Then as a student at Morehouse College, I looked forward to the Chapel Talks and the inspirational speakers who would come to campus each week.
Walking through the museum brought to life many of the stories that influenced every stage of my life and the remarkable achievements of the African-American community throughout history. To see, all at once, the tragedies and the triumphs of African-American people – and, in turn, Americans – through this exhibit was transformative: I could walk from the pallor of a slave quarters to the shine of Chuck Berry’s Cadillac; step away from a dull green stool from a Greensboro lunch counter to view the memorabilia of legendary entertainers from Billie Holiday to Michael Jackson; and see slave shackles and the broad, brave shoulders of General Colin Powell’s uniform. This moved me as an adult, and I can only imagine what our children’s children will experience as we continue to build upon this already rich history and culture. African-Americans continue to amaze, inspire and innovate – every day. These achievements will be documented at the museum for future generations to look back on.
From the history of Native Americans to the journey toward space travel, the story of our country has been told many ways in the museums and monuments that dot the National Mall. It is a true joy to see the African-American story take its rightful place as another pillar of that history. I encourage you to spend time exploring the museum and absorbing its rich history.