Back in August of 2014, the Altria Group donated $1 million to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).
Commenting on the gift, a bullish Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the museum, noted, "As the building takes shape in the nation’s capital, Altria is helping us create a groundswell of excitement and pride for a museum with an unprecedented mission: to tell America’s story through the lens of the African American experience."
Approximately two years later, it's safe to say that the hoped-for "groundswell of excitement" has come to pass.
A few weeks after Michael Jordan gave $5 million to NMAAHC in early August, now comes word that the museum received five $2 million sponsorships from Bank of America, Kaiser Permanente, Prudential Financial Inc., Target, and Toyota to support the museum's grand opening celebrations and inaugural events slated for September.
Here's Bunch again:
These corporations have been longstanding, essential partners in the campaign to build this museum. Now, their support as sponsors will enable the museum to host a public celebration that reflects the historic significance of this event: the opening of the first national museum dedicated to the African American experience.
Jordan's gift pushed private donations to the museum to $278 million. Throw in the $10 million pledged in aforementioned donations plus federal aid and the museum has raised somewhere in the neighborhood of $550 million.
Not too shabby.
Of course, these corporate donors aren't strangers to arts-related philanthropy. We've looked at Bank of America's penchant for loaning art and Prudential's longstanding support of United States Artists, an organization that has awarded more than $21 million to almost 450 artists through $50,000 annual fellowships in the fields of architecture and design, traditional arts, and visual arts.
All of which brings us back to that Altria Group from so many moons ago. The $1 million amount may not seem Earth-shattering, but it came at a critical juncture. While the museum was established by an act of Congress through legislation signed into law in 2003 by President George W. Bush, it was still under construction 11 years later.
The Altria gift provided that timely "last-mile" infusion to help the museum conquer that final hurdle—and its significance wasn't lost on Bunch, who at the time noted, "We are honored to have the support of Altria Group as we move into the final phase of construction."
What's more, with the benefit of hindsight it's interesting to place all of these gifts within a two-year continuum whereby Bunch's hopes for a "groundswell of excitement" came to fruition. For example, upon concluding our post on the Altria gift, we said:
Hopefully, other philanthropic groups and wealthy donors will follow Altria's lead in taking the National Museum of African American History and Culture across the finish line.
The words "wealth donors" hyperlinked to our profile on David Rubenstein (aka "The Patriot Philanthropist") and wouldn't you know it, roughly 15 months later Rubenstein obliged and donated $10 million to the museum. He also loaned the museum two documents, both signed by Abraham Lincoln—copies of the 13th Amendment and the Emancipation Proclamation.
The museum will officially open Sept. 24. President Barack Obama and other dignitaries will dedicate the museum at an outdoor ceremony beginning at 9 a.m.