A top civil-rights advocate in Congress says that there are still “scars and stains of racism” that are “deeply embedded in American society.”
Rep. John Lewis, a man who grew up in the segregated American South and marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King in the country’s great civil rights struggles, says that there are still a lot of people that “cannot get comfortable with the idea of an African American as president of the United States of America,” adding that he didn’t witness “this type of hostility during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.”
His comments come on the heels of the ground-breaking ceremony for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, a project that was approved by Congress in 2003 and that will be tasked with chronicling over 200 years of Black American history.
“It’s been a long struggle, down a very long road, but I feel more than lucky… just to play a little role in helping to get us to this point,” he said.
The museum will take the bad with the good – while displaying a “painful set of slave shackles made for a child,” it will also display Louis Armstrong’s trumpet or Chuck Berry’s red Cadillac. For the Museum’s director, Lonnie Bunch, it “is not a museum about black history for black people,” but rather, it is “the quintessential American story and we want everybody to revel in it,” he said.
Congressman Lewis lamented the current political battles being fought by one of his old Congressional colleagues Rick Santorum. Santorum, who was one of the co-sponsors of the legislation to establish the museum, has changed according to Lewis.
“I just don’t think that is the man that I knew when he served in the House.”
He added that, “I never, ever saw him take the type of position that he’s taken… on social issues, on the issues of race, taking care of people that have been left out and left behind. It is surprising.”
You can watch the entire PRESS Pass conversation above to hear more from Lewis and Bunch about the National Museum of African American History and Culture and how specifically it will handle the task of teaching about the nation’s first African American president: Barack Obama.