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Smithsonian Announces $10 Million Gift from David Rubenstein to the National Museum of African American History and Culture

January 20, 2016

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, set to open in late September, today announced that philanthropist David M. Rubenstein has donated $10 million to the new museum’s capital campaign. Rubenstein, co-founder and co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, is a member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents’ executive committee and serves as co-chair of the Institution’s $1.5 billion national fundraising campaign.

Rubenstein is a longtime donor to the Smithsonian, having now contributed a total of $44.7 million.

In addition to the contribution, Rubenstein is loaning the museum two extraordinarily rare documents, both of which are signed by President Abraham Lincoln: the 13th Amendment, which officially ended the institution of slavery (1865), and the Emancipation Proclamation (1863). The Emancipation Proclamation is one of 48 signed by Lincoln, only about half of those have survived. The documents will be displayed in the inaugural exhibitions in the museum’s History Galleries. 

“It is a distinct honor to have the support of David Rubenstein as we start the countdown toward the opening of the museum this fall,” said Lonnie Bunch, the museum’s founding director. “This gift is another shining example of his long-standing commitment to the Smithsonian as a donor, an advisor and a fundraiser. His respect for and knowledge of history, coupled with his contribution of $10 million, makes him an extraordinary partner in our commitment to explore African American history and culture in a way never attempted before—a way that makes it clear that African American history is America’s history.”

In recognition of Rubenstein’s generosity, the museum will name the centerpiece of the exhibition space in his honor: the David M. Rubenstein History Galleries. It includes three inaugural exhibitions—“Slavery and Freedom,” “Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: Era of Segregation 1876–1968” and “A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond.”

“David’s philanthropy will enormously enhance the Smithsonian’s ability to tell the essential, continuing story of the African American contribution to our history and culture,” said Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton. “We greatly value his wise advice and generous spirit. He’s an extraordinary individual and leader.”

“This architecturally stunning museum occupies its rightful place of honor and prominence on the National Mall,” Rubenstein said. “This will be a place of learning, inspiration and healing. Designed to honor the important contributions to our country, over hundreds of years, of African Americans, it is a museum for all Americans to visit and appreciate. I am honored to be among the museum’s many supporters.”

With the addition of Rubenstein’s gift, the museum’s total fundraising is $252 million. The Smithsonian committed to raising one-half of the funds for the museum’s construction and exhibitions, and Congress funded the other half, which was completed with the fiscal 2015 appropriation.

The Smithsonian Campaign is the first comprehensive campaign in the history of the Institution and the largest campaign undertaken by a cultural organization. Private gifts made to the campaign—now totaling $1.3 billion of the $1.5 billon goal—are providing support to build and renovate exhibition galleries, create new programs, and invest in educational initiatives and create endowments.

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Linda St.Thomas    
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Fleur Paysour  
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