An American educator and historian, Lonnie G. Bunch III is the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum and research complex.
The first African American and first historian to serve as head of the Smithsonian, Bunch has spent most of his career as a history museum curator and administrator. He started his role at The Smithsonian in June 2019. As Secretary, he is responsible for 19 museums, 21 libraries, the National Zoo and numerous research centres.
Bunch was the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) from 2005 to 2019. Before this he was president and director of the Chicago History Museum from 2000 to 2005. In the 1980s, he was the first curator at the California African American Museum, and then a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where in the 1990s, he rose to head curatorial affairs.
In the words of one of the many to nominate him, “Lonnie is helming the Smithsonian through multi-faceted crises, and is vocally and visibly engaging in the hard-hitting discourse our country needs around our racist past and present. He has positioned the Smithsonian to actively participate in these conversations, stating bluntly and repeatedly that this IS the role of a museum. A learned yet caring voice, Lonnie’s leadership and humanity is a model for other museum executives”.
A widely published author, Bunch’s most recent book was A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama, and Trump. This documents the making of the museum that would become one of the most popular destinations in Washington.
In 2019, he was awarded the Freedom Medal for his contribution to American culture as a historian and storyteller.