‘Long Road to Hard Truth’

Judge Wilkins Lectures on National Museum of African American History and Culture, Cites WashULaw Connection

Judge Robert L. Wilkins, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, discussed the myriad of challenges behind the National Museum of African American History and Culture during his Tyrrell Williams Lecture. His talk was based on his work on the Presidential Commission for the museum and his new book, “Long Road to Hard Truth: The 100-Year Mission to Create the National Museum of African American History and Culture.”

Wilkins observed that the century-long quest to build the museum began in part with the inspiration and impetus of a WashULaw grad. The first bill to authorize a national memorial for African Americans was introduced in 1916 by Rep. Leonidas Dyer of Missouri, a graduate of Washington University School of Law who was admitted to the bar in 1893. A civil rights activist, Dyer also proposed several bills to outlaw lynchings.

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“He saw the effort to create the memorial as important as the lynching bill because the memorial would force the country to recognize African Americans as humans, as equal citizens, as people who had contributed to the country,” Wilkins said.

The anti-lynching bills never passed, and though it took a century, Dyer’s proposal for a memorial finally came to fruition when the museum opened as part of the Smithsonian in September through the tireless work of a bipartisan coalition of political leaders.

Fall 2016