Lonnie Bunch

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Lonnie G. Bunch III
Lonnie Bunch 13615-171.jpg
Lonnie Bunch at the 2014 Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library
Born (1952-11-18) November 18, 1952 (age 65)
Newark, New Jersey, United States
Nationality American
Alma mater American University
Howard University
Scientific career
Fields History of the United States
African American Studies
Institutions National Museum of African American History and Culture

Lonnie G. Bunch III (born November 18, 1952) is an American educator and historian. He has spent most of his career as a history museum curator and administrator. He is the founding director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. Bunch previously served as president and director of the Chicago History Museum (Chicago Historical Society) from 2000 to 2005[1] In the 1980s, he was the first curator at the California African American Museum, and then a curator at the Smithsonian's American History Museum, where in the 1990s, he rose to head curatorial affairs.

Personal life and education[edit]

Lonnie Bunch III was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1952.[2] He grew up in Belleville, New Jersey, where his family were the only African Americans in their neighborhood. His grandfather, a former sharecropper, moved into the area as one of the first black dentists in the region,[3] and Bunch's father and mother were school teachers.[4] As a child, he experienced racism from white teenagers in his neighborhood.[3] Bunch credits his childhood experiences with local Italian immigrants and his reading of biographies as a youth with inspiring him to study history. Bunch wanted to give a voice to those who were "anonymous" or not written about. In 2011 Bunch reflected on the early exposures: "I was in junior high and we were reading biographies of historic figures. I remember one on Gen. ‘Mad Anthony’ Wayne, and one on Clara Barton and Dorothea Dix. I thought, ‘Were there no histories of black people?’ One day, I was going through my grandfather’s trunk and I found a book about black soldiers in the First World War. I devoured it."[4]

Bunch met Maria Marable in graduate school; they would eventually marry and she became Maria Marable-Bunch.[5][6] The couple have two daughters.[7]


He graduated from Belleville High School in 1970.[2] Bunch attended Howard University[2] but transferred to American University, where he earned his B.A. and M.A. in American history and African history.[8] He earned his Phd. in history in 1979.[2]

Professional career[edit]

Lonnie Bunch at NMAAHC Site Selection News Conference

Bunch started working at the Smithsonian Institution while he was working on his Ph.D. After graduating, he was hired as a history professor at the University of Maryland. In 1983, he became the first curator at the California African American Museum.[2] He worked at the National Museum of American History from 1989 until 1994 as a curator. Lonnie Bunch is an educator who was a Professor at the University of Maryland. He was promoted to Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs at the museum before leaving in 2000 to become the president of one of the nation's oldest museums in history, the Chicago Historical Society, from 2001-2005.[9] In Chicago he led a successful capital campaign, and promoted outreach to diverse communities. One noted exhibit, Teen Chicago, focused on teenager life.[10] In 2005, Bunch was named the director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture.[8] He served on the Commission for the Preservation of the White House during the George W. Bush administration[2] and was reappointed to the Commission by President Obama in 2010

Exhibits and research[edit]

He curated the National Museum of American History exhibition "The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden."[4] The exhibition was curated, built, and opened within eight months.[11]

Notable awards[edit]

  • Jackie Robinson Society Community Recognition Award, 2011[12]


  • with Laurence P. and Martha Kendall Crouchette Winnaker, Visions Toward Tomorrow, the History of the East Bay Afro-American Community 1852-1977. Oakland: Northern California Center for Afro-American History and Life. 1989. ISBN 0-9622334-0-4
  • with Spencer R. Crew, Mark G.Hirsch and Harry R. Rubenstein, The American Presidency, A Glorious Burden. Washington: Smithsonian Institution. 2000. ISBN 978-1560988359
  • with Donna M. Wells, David E. Haberstitch and Deborah Willis, The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington: Picturing the Promise (First ed.). Washington: National Museum of African American History and Culture. 2009. ISBN 978-1588342720
  • Call the Lost Dream Back: Essays on History, Race & Museums. Georgia: Big River Books. 2010. ISBN 978-1933253176
  • with Spencer R. Crew and Clement A. Price, Slave Culture: A Documentary Collection of the Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers Project. Connecticut: Greenwood. 2014. ISBN 978-1440800863


  1. ^ "National Museum of African American History and Culture". Smithsonian History. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 8 May 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Lonnie Bunch Biography". EducationMakers. The History Makers. Retrieved 8 May 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Brown, DeNeen (17 February 2012). "Lonnie Bunch's vision for the Museum of African American History and Culture". Washington Post. Retrieved 9 May 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c Di Ionno, Mark (13 February 2011). "N.J.'s Lonnie Bunch: History in the making at African-American museum". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 8 May 2012. 
  5. ^ http://www.american.edu/americanmagazine/features/20110222-Lonnie-Bunch-founding-director-smithsonian-museuem-of-african-american-history-and-culture.cfm
  6. ^ http://www.loyola.edu/academic/aaas/news-events/bunch.aspx
  7. ^ Ebony Magazine, July 2001, Volume 56# 9.
  8. ^ a b "Lonnie G. Bunch, III, Director, NMAAHC". Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 8 May 2012. 
  9. ^ "Lonnie G. Bunch Named Director of National Museum of African American History and Culture". General Notes. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 8 May 2012. 
  10. ^ newsdesk.si.edu/about/bios/lonnie-g-bunch
  11. ^ Trescott, Jacqueline (16 March 2005). "Smithsonian Taps Lonnie Bunch to Be African American Museum Director". Washington Post. Retrieved 9 May 2012. 
  12. ^ Traynor, Elizabeth (21 October 2011). "Annual Jackie Robinson Night honors celebrated historian". The GW Hatchen. Retrieved 9 May 2012. 

External links[edit]