Director, National Museum of African Art
Johnnetta B. Cole is the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. She oversees 34 staff members and a collection of 9,100 objects in the only national museum in the United States dedicated to the collection, exhibition, conservation and study of the arts of Africa.
Cole is also the board chair of the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute, founded at Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C. The mission of the nonprofit institute is to create, communicate and continuously support the case for diversity and inclusion in the workplace through education, training, research and publications.
Cole served as president of the Bennett College for Women (2002-2007) where she completed a $50 million campaign, opened an art gallery and initiated programs in Africana women’s studies and global studies. Before that, she served as Presidential Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Women’s Studies and African American Studies (1998-2001) at Emory University in Atlanta. In 2002, she served as co-curator of the exhibition “Wrapped in Pride: Ghanaian Kente and African American Identity” at the Carlos Museum at Emory.
Cole was president of Spelman College in Atlanta (1987-1997) where her appointment generated a $20 million gift from Bill and Camille Cosby. In addition, she completed a $113 million capital campaign. Under her leadership, Spelman College was named the number-one ranked liberal arts college in the South.
Cole has served on the Scholarly Advisory Board of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture since its inception, and she has worked with a number of Smithsonian programs since the mid-1980s.
Cole has conducted research in Africa, the Caribbean and the United States and has authored several books and scores of scholarly articles. She has been awarded 54 honorary degrees from colleges and universities, including Princeton, Yale, Fisk, Smith and Columbia, and won numerous awards. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Anthropological Association, having delivered its distinguished lecture in 2008. She served on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s Committee on Transformational Diplomacy and on President Bill Clinton’s Transition Team for Education, Labor, the Arts and Humanities, and has served as the Chair of the United Way of America.
Cole earned a doctorate degree (1967) and a master’s degree (1959) in anthropology from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree (1957) in sociology from Oberlin College in Ohio.
# # #