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

USA Today: Tammy Boyd helped drive legislation that led to new African American Museum

, USA TODAYPublished 6:48 p.m. ET April 14, 2017

WASHINGTON — Tammy Boyd remembers in 2000 when her boss Rep. John Lewis gave her the assignment: Get enough bipartisan support behind legislation to build a national African American museum.

Never mind that the Georgia congressman had been trying to get Congress to pass the bill for 15 years.

“I thought, ‘Oh this is a great idea – an African American museum … but I did not know how big it would end up being or how long folks had been fighting,” for a museum, recalled Boyd, then the legislative director for Lewis. “I knew it would probably be hard. I didn’t think it would be that difficult.”

Last fall, 16 years later, Boyd stood in the lobby of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a 400,000-square-foot bronze-colored structure on the National Mall.

“Even when I was working on it, I knew that it was something great, but did not know that it would be of the magnitude that it was,” said Boyd, 42, a native of Jackson, Miss. “I’m like wow you actually worked on getting this passed.”

It’s been more than six months since Boyd joined tens of thousands at the museum’s grand opening. She sat rows from the stage where former President Obama, the nation’s first African American president, and former President George W. Bush, who had signed the bill authorizing federal funding for the museum, delivered passionate speeches.

It was a long road from the day Boyd was tasked with helping develop a strategy to navigate Lewis’ bill through the Republican-controlled Congress and drum up support from scores of groups off Capitol Hill. It was a daunting challenge.

“I had no idea there was so much entailed in it,” said Boyd, who now runs TKB Global Strategies, a lobbying/consulting firm in Washington, D.C. “I knew there were challenges (to passing a bill). But this had so many quiet kind of hurdles.”

For years, Lewis had introduced bills to build an African American museum, but those efforts repeatedly failed. Efforts by others dated back decades earlier.

Still, Lewis was determined to try again and teamed with then Rep. J.C. Watts, an African American Republican from Oklahoma. Over in the Senate, he worked with Sam Brownback, a Republican from Kansas, and Max Cleland, a Democrat from Georgia.

“We thought it was really key to get a Republican cosponsor,” Boyd said.

Boyd worked with the lawmakers’ staffers – Kerri Speight Watson from Watts’ office, La Rochelle Young from Brownback’s and Donnice Turner from Cleland’s.

“She made it clear what Lewis wanted and what his vision was for this museum and the legislation,” recalled Watson, who was then a senior legislative aid for Watts. “We all worked together to come up with a strategy to get the legislation moving and passed.”

Robert Wilkins, chairman of the site and building committee Congress set up to plan the museum, said Boyd was instrumental in pushing the bill, particularly helping to craft legislative language and build coalitions.

“She had to get in those weeds and figure out how to resolve all of these issues,” said Wilkins, author of the Long Road to Hard Truth. The 100-year Mission to Create the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  “She really dug in and rolled up her sleeves.”


PHOTO: Tammy Boyd talks about what it means to see the National Museum of African American History and Culture come to life. Boyd, a former legislative director for Rep. John Lewis, helped craft bills to build the museum. (Photo: Jarrad Henderson, USAT)

Posted in News & Events on April, 2017