- A group of Black Republicans wants a Smithsonian museum to better reflect the legacy of Clarence Thomas.
- The push was led by freshman GOP Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida.
- “Black History transcends political correctness and partisanship,” Donalds wrote.
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A group of Black Republicans, led by freshman GOP Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, have asked the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) to “honor” Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas by updating an exhibit that they say currently “falls short” in reflecting his legacy.
The letter was reported by Fox News and also signed by figures including Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the sole Black Republican in the upper chamber, along with Rep. Burgess Owens of Utah and Heritage Foundation president Kay Coles James, among others.
“This museum is a national treasure for our nation’s fabric – this is especially true for me as a Black American and Republican,” Donalds wrote. “Black History transcends political correctness and partisanship. Overall, the NMAAHC honors its mission, but it is unfortunate to see pitfalls likely driven by irresponsible bias.”
The museum, which opened in September 2016 and has a permanent collection of over 36,000 artifacts, is a Smithsonian Institution museum.
Thomas, an associate justice of the Supreme Court, was nominated for the position by then-President George H.W. Bush in 1991 to replace the retiring legal trailblazer Thurgood Marshall, who was the first Black American to serve on the Supreme Court.
When the museum first opened, Thomas was largely mentioned only in connection with the contentious 1991 confirmation battle that involved allegations of sexual harassment by Anita Hill, a former Thomas staffer.
Thomas strongly denied the allegations and described his confirmation process as “a high-tech lynching.”
He was confirmed to the Supreme Court by a narrow 52-48 margin.
In 2017, a more substantive exhibit about Thomas was presented at the museum, but several conservatives, including insist it is insufficient. Donalds said the tribute to Thomas paled in comparison to that of Marshall.
“As a Black man who has a profound respect for the contributions Justice Thomas has propitiated for generations to come, this museum must encapsulate his life as it does for hundreds of other monumental Black figures,” Donalds wrote, adding that the museum currently doesn’t reflect his “achievements and life compared to his counterpart, the Honorable Justice Thurgood Marshall.”
Donalds also said “Black history cannot and should not be political,” and urged the museum to offer an “unbiased assessment” of Black historical figures.
“The American people deserve an unbiased assessment of the trailblazers in the Black community – it is time to honor Justice Thomas with this long-overdue documentation of his whole life and history and not the disingenuous effort displayed today,” Donalds wrote.
Owens echoed a similar sentiment about the Thomas exhibit to Fox News.
“As one of the only two Black men to serve on our nation’s highest and most distinguished court, US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas deserves unbiased recognition from the National Museum of African American History and Culture,” he told the outlet, adding the museum should “appropriately honor the continued legacy of Justice Thomas.”
The museum released a statement to Artnet News regarding the matter.
“While all our exhibitions are based on rigorous research, they are still open to interpretation,” the statement reads. “Through scholarship, publications, and education, the museum will continue to explore the rich contributions and complexity of African Americans.”