Smithsonian Institution names Lonnie Bunch III as its first African American secretary

The historian was the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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By Minyvonne Burke

The founding director of the national African American museum in Washington, D.C., has been named the new leader of the entire Smithsonian Institution, the first time a black person will hold the role.

Lonnie G. Bunch III, a historian, will take over as the 14th secretary of the Smithsonian on June 16, the organization said Tuesday in a press release.

Bunch was the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is part of the Smithsonian. The museum, which opened in September 2016, is the largest in the nation dedicated to the history and culture of African American people.

The Smithsonian, which also includes the Natural History Museum and the Air and Space Museum, is the largest museum and research complex in the world.

"As Secretary, Bunch will oversee 19 museums, 21 libraries, the National Zoo, numerous research centers, and several education units and centers," a tweet from the museum read. "Congrats to Secretary Bunch!"

Bunch will also be the first historian to serve as secretary and the first director of a Smithsonian museum to move up to the top role in 74 years, according to the Smithsonian.

According to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Bunch spent more than 40 years working in the museum field and is "regarded as one of the nation’s leading historians and public intellectuals."

Spencer Crew, a professor at George Mason University in Virginia, will serve as interim director of the museum.