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

Mall’s Finite Space Holds Infinite Dreams

Is there any space left on the Mall? With the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian Sept. 21, the officials in charge of Washington’s main savanna have hoisted a “No Vacancy” sign.

“The last big site on the Mall, Congress said, is the Indian Museum,” says Sally Blumenthal, a division chief of the National Park Service. That position has been endorsed at least officially by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Memorial Commission, as well as the Park Service — all the bureaucratic lords of the federal lands in the city. The Mall is done, says NCPC Chairman John V. Cogbill III. “Forever. We consider the Mall a finished work of civic art,” he says.

Advocates of pending big museums beg to differ.

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) for years fought, with many others, to win approval for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Nine months ago the okay came from the White House, and Lewis makes clear it needs a front-and-center location — on the Mall or nearby. “The National Mall and the space around it is the front door to America. It is a symbol of our democracy,” he says. “In the South, I remember when black people could not enter through the front door of many homes and businesses. I firmly believe that a National African American Museum should not be off the National Mall at some back door.”

Washington Post; September 15, 2004

Posted in News & Events on September, 2004