National Museum African American History

The global as personal: GSK and The National Museum of African American History and Culture

"Ten years in the making—and 100 years in the making.” That’s how The National Museum of African American History and Culture founding director, Lonnie G. Bunch III, described the creation of the newest museum in the Smithsonian Institution.

In 2003, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) was created by an act of Congress as the only national museum devoted to telling the story of America through the lens of African American life, art, history, and culture. Located on the National Mall next to the Washington Monument, the museum is a tiered bronze filigree beacon helping us to understand the past, and inspiring us to work toward a better future.

There are four laudable pillars upon which the NAAMHC stands. As a global company with more than 300 years of history, one in particular resonates with us: It [NAAMHC] helps all Americans see how their stories, their histories, and their cultures are shaped and informed by global influences.

We are incredibly proud to be a Founding Donor of this magnificent, and long-awaited, monument. Our former CEO, Sir Andrew Witty, noted that “the African American story is one of perseverance and fortitude and immense achievement and it deserves to be celebrated in this beautiful new institution.” 

Sir Andrew also pointed out that early GSK founders included leaders in the abolitionist movement, among them William Allen, a clerk who rose to be owner of Allen and Hanbury’s pharmacy—one of GSK’s legacy companies.  A devout Quaker, Allen became a passionate campaigner to end slavery in 1791 after hearing a speech by famed English abolitionist William Wilberforce. We found Allen’s original letters in the GSK archives – take a peek.

Today, we continue to honor that heritage by working to reduce disparities in health and opportunity for people of all backgrounds, investing in the health of distressed American communities and increasing minority participation in our clinical research. 

Our support for this museum – the first major gift from a pharmaceutical company – underscores our belief that inclusion and diversity are fundamental values, and critical to fulfilling our mission and achieving business success.

We look forward to celebrating the museum’s long-awaited opening in September, exploring its treasures and reflecting on the African American experience that has so deeply enriched our extraordinary country.

Background on the museum

The Museum will welcome 3-5 million visitors annually, free of charge, where they will engage with exhibitions and interactive learning opportunities about the African American experience.  The museum offers a narrative from slavery and reconstruction through the Civil Rights Era and into the 21st Century and will provide a home to:

National Museum African American History
Photo: Alan Karchmer/NMAAHC
  • Compelling collections on history, music, art, sports, the military, performing arts, community and more.
  • More than 30,000 items including Harriet Tubman’s hymnal, Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, a Tuskegee Airmen training plane, a Jim Crow-era segregated railroad car, Muhammad Ali’s fight robe, an African American fashion collection, Chuck Berry’s cherry-red Cadillac and artworks by Jacob Lawrence, Lorna Simpson, Elizabeth Catlett and more.
  • Educational programming to help teachers create lesson plans tied to the museum’s exhibitions.

Come along for a virtual tour.

Related tags

Back to top