Amplifying the national conversation on race

A new program from the Smithsonian Institution seeks to drive discussion and understanding around equality and opportunity in America

With more than 9 million artifacts related to U.S. history and culture, the Smithsonian Institution shines a powerful light on American life, past and present, and serves as an important influence on the country’s understanding of its identity. In launching its new Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past program, the museum will bring more than 170 years of institutional knowledge to bear on one of the nation’s most critical issues: race and equality.


Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Devin Allen, © Devin Allen

“Racism is a national issue that transcends communities,” says Lonnie G. Bunch III, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, “One that requires all of society’s stakeholders—public, private and nonprofit—to work together to advance progress on. The Smithsonian’s expertise, scholarship and collections will help our nation to better understand the challenges that arise from racism.”

Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past will include national events as well as smaller local events in communities around the country, drawing on the resources of several Smithsonian partners, including the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Smithsonian Latino Center, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and the National Museum of American History.

Supported by a $25 million commitment from founding partner Bank of America, the program will include online town halls featuring civil rights and social justice leaders discussing a variety of pressing topics, including the critical need for greater economic opportunity in America’s communities of color. “A true sense of urgency has arisen in our communities, and we must not let it quiet down,” says Brian Moynihan, chairman and chief executive officer of Bank of America and museum council member for Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). “Our commitment to the Smithsonian will support conversations that can advance economic and social progress. Now is the time. We all must do more.”

While no individual effort can solve the problems of inequality and racism, Bunch believes the Smithsonian program can provide another step forward by helping Americans “confront our difficult history and unite to bring healing and hope for our future.”

Learn how Bank of America’s $25 million commitment builds on the company’s $1.25 billion, five-year commitment to advance issues of racial equality and economic opportunity for people and communities of color. This follows the $100 million in philanthropic grants that Bank of America committed in response to the coronavirus, which is in addition to its annual $250 million in philanthropy and $250 million in capital to assist with lending to minority-owned businesses.

Originally published 10/23/2020