BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
Bethune-Cookman University has formed a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) that will offer opportunities for students and include exhibits featuring Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.
The partnership provides a stipend for a student to work at the B-CU Mary McLeod Bethune Foundation House. Additionally, the student will have an opportunity to work with the NMAAHC during the summer.
“We partnered with six historically Black colleges and universities in the country to provide opportunities to students of color,” said Dr. Deborah Mack, associate director for community and constituent services at the NMAAHC. “We chose B-CU because of the rigor of its programs and its rich tradition and history.”
Moving beyond the Capitol
The NMAAHC is currently under construction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It is situated on a five-acre tract adjacent to the Washington Monument and described as “a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African-American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped us shape this nation. A place that transcends the boundaries of race and culture that divide us, and becomes a lens into a story that unites us all.”
Until then, those interested in viewing the gallery are invited to the second floor of the National Museum of American History.
“A vital part of the Smithsonian’s vision is to reach audiences beyond Washington, D.C., to engage new audiences and we are grateful to be in that number,’’ said Dr. Ashley Robertson, curator of the Mary McLeod Bethune Foundation House.
“Knowing that Mrs. Bethune’s legacy will be well-preserved and accessible to people from all walks of life and from places throughout the world is a testament to her greatness. Now the work begins here at the foundation through this internship program and we are ready to put our hands to the plough,” she said.
Six Bethune exhibits
The museum, which will open in late 2016, is housed in a 303,000-square foot building that is the closest of all 19 Smithsonian museums to the Washington Monument. There will be six exhibits featuring Dr. Bethune, Mack said. The exhibits will include video, clothing, photos and other collectibles.
“The NMAAHC creates an opportunity for the world to learn about the culture and history of African Americans in the creation of this nation,” Mack explained. “The exhibits tell the story of African-Americans in an international context. It is a museum for all Americans.”
Large membership base
Though the NMAAHC has not officially opened, it already has the second largest membership in the Smithsonian system, Mack said. So far, 72,000 people have signed up as members.
Shaunna Glanton, a B-CU senior history major from Jacksonville who is the first intern to participate in the program, said she is honored for the opportunity to work at the Bethune Foundation House and the Smithsonian.
“Sharing the history of Mary McLeod Bethune and learning about her gifts to the world brings me great joy,” Glanton said. “I cannot wait to get to the African American Museum to see our great founder in a global setting.”