By Kate Taylor
In the late 1970s, when Lonnie G. Bunch III had his first job at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, veterans of the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black squadron, accused the museum of playing down their contributions during World War II. In response, the museum asked some of the African-Americans on staff to allow their faces to be used on mannequins, increasing the “black presence” in its exhibits.
“I didn’t do it,” Mr. Bunch said recently, who was among those asked. “That’s not the way I wanted to be part of a museum.”
Thirty years later Mr. Bunch, and African-American history itself, are part of a Smithsonian museum, but in a very different way. As the director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Mr. Bunch, 58, is charged with creating an institution that embodies the story of black life in America.