President Donald Trump is the kind of man who manages to make even a visit to a museum about African American history about him. When he went to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2017, Trump seemed particularly transfixed by an exhibit that explored the role the Dutch played in the slave trade. That made Lonnie G. Bunch III, who was the museum’s founding director, optimistic that the president was interested in what he was seeing. Trump quickly proved him wrong.
“The president paused in front of the exhibit that discussed the role of the Dutch in the slave trade,” Bunch, who is the newly appointed Smithsonian secretary, writes in his upcoming memoir, according to the Washington Post. “As he pondered the label I felt that maybe he was paying attention to the work of the museum. He quickly proved me wrong. As he turned from the display he said to me, ‘You know, they love me in the Netherlands.’ All I could say was let’s continue walking.”
Bunch was already feeling a bit frustrated with the visit considering that the then-incoming president wanted to visit the museum on the holiday commemorating Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and asked that the museum be closed. Bunch thought the whole proposition was ridiculous. “The notion that we could shut out visitors on the first King holiday since the opening of the museum was not something I could accept,” Bunch writes. So they agreed on another day. But before Trump arrived, his aides had a message for Bunch. They told him Trump “was in a foul mood and that he did not want to see anything ‘difficult,’ ” Bunch writes. The founding director of the museum didn’t much care. “It was not my job to make the rough edges of history smooth, even for the president,” he writes in A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama and Trump.
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