The Root reports that a gathering of elite Black names at the Los Angeles home of actor Denzel Washington and his wife Pauletta raised $17 million for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opens later this year. The federal government has contributed $270 million of the $540 million price of the museum. Last month, the museum reported having raised $252 million of the remainder, close to their $270 million goal.
At the Saturday event, Variety reports that the top donor was TV writer and producer Shonda Rimes, who could not attend but pledged $10 million. Attendees at the event included names like Quincy Jones, Magic Johnson, and Samuel L. Jackson, with a performance by R&B singer Goapele Mohlabane.
“In this climate where so much money is being raised for the Presidency and The White House, it is incredible to have the support we received,” said Pauletta Washington. “It’s good knowing that even with so much going on, people are committed to making sure that this museum is successful.” She also mentioned visiting a Holocaust museum in Israel with Denzel and their four children. Noting the chilling effect it had on the entire family, she added that their children reflected on themselves, and wondered if there was a place that told their story. “That hit me because I didn’t know at the time this museum was in the making,” she explained.
Denzel Washington also harped on the importance of this project not just to the Black community, but to everyone. “There is such a historical significance to this project…It means so much for our community, our country and to future generations.” Magic Johnson closed the event with a pledge to get more figures from the entertainment and sports communities involved.
“We have to get everyone involved in this, making this a success,” said Johnson. To date, major donors have included Hank Aaron, George Lucas and his wife Mellody Hobson, Colin Powell, the NBA Association, and Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey is the largest individual donor, having contributed over $21 million to the project. The museum will have a 355-seat theatre named in her honor.
Originally authorized in 2003, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will stand on a five-acre site near the Washington Monument. The museum will cover the entire history of black people from the slavery era to the modern day, featuring exclusive pieces donated by people across the country. Exhibits will also cover the contributions of black people in the arts, sciences, sports, politics, and more. President Barack Obama himself will cut the ribbon on the museum’s opening day on September 24.