The 100-Year Mission To Create
The National Museum Of African American History And Culture
By Robert L. Wilkins

Long Quest, Unlikely Allies: Black Museum Nears Reality

Standing on a stretch of land northwest of the Capitol on a recent afternoon, Representative John Lewis took a chest-swelling breath and surveyed the space around him — a 5.25-acre expanse dotted with sweet gum and elm trees, park benches and a temporary parking lot.

”It would be very powerful,” Mr. Lewis said with a pensive sigh. ”The healing we could foster. The message we could send from here.”

That morning Senator Sam Brownback, a Republican from Kansas who shares little political ground with Mr. Lewis, a liberal Democrat from Georgia, jogged by the same piece of land. ”Just passing it,” he said. ”Filled me with a sense of hope.”

On the same day, Robert Wilkins, a tenacious 39-year-old lawyer, sat in his downtown office with detailed sketches of the ground. The space, and the struggle it symbolized, have ”become an obsession of sorts,” he said.

The civil rights stalwart, the conservative Republican and the impassioned lawyer represent a coalition of allies in a nearly century-long quest to build a national museum of African-American history and culture here on the National Mall. And in an improbable alignment of the social and political stars, proponents of the museum say they believe the project may finally come to fruition, given a crucial push from President Bush and a Republican-controlled Congress.

The New York Times; June 29, 2003

Posted in News & Events on June, 2003