Donald Trump received a personal tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture just before taking office in 2017, but the newly appointed Secretary of the Smithsonian said the president seemed to miss the point.
In an account published by The Washington Post, Lonnie Bunch III said that he personally guided Trump through the museum in January 2017 and tried to help the president-elect understand the relevance of slavery. As he recounted in an upcoming memoir titled A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama and Trump, Trump quickly showed that the message wasn’t sinking in.
Bunch recalled that as he showed Trump an exhibit showing the role that the Dutch played in the international slave trade, Trump seemed to be taking in the content but quickly showed his mind was elsewhere.
“You know, they love me in the Netherlands,” Trump remarked.
As Bunch wrote, he was floored by the way Trump could be thinking about himself as he took in one of history’s worst atrocities.
“There is little I remember about the rest of the hour we spent together,” Bunch wrote. “I was so disappointed in his response to one of the greatest crimes against humanity in history.”
Donald Trump has frequently been accused of being insensitive to African Americans and stoking racial division. That was the case in recent weeks when Trump came under bipartisan criticism for a tweet in which he told four Democratic congresswomen of color to go back to their “original” countries if they want to criticize the United States. Three of the four were born in the United States, while a fourth is a naturalized citizen who emigrated from Somalia. Trump stood by his statement, refusing to delete the tweet or apologize even as members of his own party called on him to do so.
Trump drew more controversy days later when he blasted a majority-black congressional district in Maryland as a “rat and rodent infested mess,” echoing the language of a Fox News segment aired just minutes earlier that took aim at Congressman Elijah Cummings for his criticism of Trump’s border policy.
What happened when Trump visited the African American History Museum, according to its founding director https://t.co/ebJpw4Wbq5
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) August 31, 2019
Donald Trump has also been accused of failing to recognize the importance of African American history. As CNN noted last year, Trump issued a statement honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and calling on Americans to mark the holiday with “acts of civic work and community service.” Trump himself then went golfing on the holiday.