UPDATE, August 2: In an update on the Smithsonian’s Facebook page this morning, they report that there are currently no plans to pursue adding Trayvon Martin’s hoodie to their collection. They acknowledge that certain items from the trial could provide a way to discuss and study race, but all items in the museum must go through a process with a team of historians and curators before the final decision is made.
Article posted August 1:
The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History is interested in Trayvon Martin’s hoodie as a display item. Even though this museum isn’t scheduled to open until 2015, it already has a growing collection that represents the past and present history of African Americans.
Museum director Lonnie Bunch told the Washington Post that the hoodie became a “symbolic” way to discuss the fatal shooting of Martin by George Zimmerman. It is not only a piece of recent American history, but also of recent African American history. The shooting and the trial stirred strong emotions in people of all races around the world including the President of the United States, Barack Obama.
The hoodie is currently with the Justice Department until the civil rights investigation is concluded. Afterwards, it will be returned to the Martin family. If they choose to donate it to the Smithsonian, it will be part of a collection that already has items belonging to Harriet Tubman, Louis Armstrong, and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates. Each of these people have such different stories, yet they are all a part of the African American experience.
Harriet Tubman was born a slave in Maryland and later escaped to Philadelphia. She returned to Maryland many times to help others reach freedom using the underground railroad. Her nickname was Moses because of her leadership. In the eight years she was with the underground railroad, she never lost anyone.
Louis Armstrong was one of the most famous jazz cornet and trumpet players of the 20th century. As both an instrumentalist and a singer, he first became famous during the 1920s and ’30s playing jazz clubs in New Orleans, Chicago, and New York. He went on to perform in other countries and accomplished this during the days of segregation. The Louis Armstrong House Museum is located in Corona, Queens, New York.
Harvard professor, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is a highly respected scholar and historian. He has also written and produced documentaries for television about African American culture, literature, and famous people such as the heritage of Oprah Winfrey. In 2009, Dr. Gates was handcuffed for attempting to enter his own home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Even though the museum is about African American history, it will be a place for every American. It will tell the story of this nation from a non-white perspective and will feature “history that must be remembered.”
Written by: Cynthia Collins, Senior Museum Correspondent