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Ford Announces $1 Million Donation to Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

  • Ford will donate $1 million to Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture to help celebrate richness and diversity of the African American experience
  • Donation builds on Ford’s long support of African Americans and a 40-year relationship with Smithsonian Institution
  • New Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture is slated to open in 2016

Ford Motor Company is building on a century-long commitment to supporting the African American community with a $1 million donation to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The donation from Ford Motor Company Fund, the company’s philanthropic arm, will support the museum’s capital campaign. It will also go toward funding key programs when the museum – the only national site devoted exclusively to documenting African American life, art, history and culture – opens on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 2016.

“Since Henry Ford’s groundbreaking $5 a day wage in 1913, which paid people equally regardless of race, Ford has invested in programs that empower and celebrate the African American community,” said Jim Vella, president, Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services. “Ford is proud to work with the Smithsonian on this museum that will recognize the tremendous contributions of African Americans to our country and our world.”

Ford and the Smithsonian Institution jointly made the announcement today at the 20th anniversary of the ESSENCE Festival in New Orleans. Follow the social conversation at #fordgivesback.

Ford’s relationship with the Smithsonian dates back 40 years, with the company donating more than $11.5 million to support exhibits and programs that provide educational opportunities for families:

  • Ford Fund supported the Smithsonian Freedom’s Sisters, which celebrated 20 African American women who fought for equality for all Americans and traveled to 12 cities from 2007 to 2012
  • In 2013, Ford Fund worked with the Smithsonian American History Museum to expand its Spark!Lab to three museums across the country. Designed to look and feel like an inventor’s workshop, these spaces challenge children to create, experiment and invent in interactive innovation workshops
  • Ford Fund currently supports the museum’s American Sabor exhibit that explores the influence of Latino musicians in America and is traveling to 13 cities through 2015
  • Ford Fund also is investing in conservation research for the giant panda at the National Zoo, including the popular Panda Cam, which allows visitors from around the world to view the newest panda cub online

“We are so pleased that the Ford Motor Company Fund has chosen to join hundreds of donors from across the country to build a groundswell of support for the National Museum of African American History and Culture; we recognize this as a vote of confidence,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the museum. “It is a genuine honor to have the company join us in our commitment to bring to the nation’s capital a truly innovative cultural resource – one capable of telling a richer and fuller story of the development of this country.

“We also applaud the Ford Motor Company for having a long history of contributing to the growth of African American communities for families who migrated to Detroit from the rural south,” Bunch added. “After hiring its first African American employee in 1914, Ford, by 1926, had hired more than 10,000 African Americans, making it the largest employer of African Americans in the auto industry. By 1931, 20 percent of Detroit’s African American population was supported by Ford jobs.”

The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established by an act of Congress in 2003 as the 19th museum of the Smithsonian. It is the only national museum devoted exclusively to exploring and documenting American history through an African American lens. The nearly 400,000-square-foot museum is under construction on a five-acre site adjacent to the Washington Monument. It is being outfitted with 11 exhibitions at a cost of about $500 million. Half the cost is covered by the U.S. Congress; the museum is responsible for raising the rest.

While its building is under construction, the museum is presenting exhibitions in its gallery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The current exhibit, “Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 and the March on Washington, 1963,” explores these two civil rights milestones and the impact the events had on generations. It is open to the public through Sept. 7. For more information, visit the museum’s website.

About Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services

Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services works with community partners to advance driving safety, education and community life. The Ford Motor Company Fund has operated for more than 60 years with ongoing funding from Ford Motor Company. Ford Driving Skills for Life teaches new drivers through a variety of hands-on and interactive methods. Innovation in education is encouraged through programs that enhance high school learning and provide college scholarships and university grants. Through the Ford Volunteer Corps, more than 25,000 Ford employees and retirees each year work on projects that better their communities in 30 countries. For more information, visit

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