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Chicago’s deep roots in Nat’l African American museum

September 14th, 2016

Some of Chicago’s most notable civic and business leaders have helped finance the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opens in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24.

Linda Johnson Rice, chair of Johnson Publishing and chairman emeritus of Ebony Media Operations., is the co-chair of the museum’s council. Her company donated $1 million to the $540 million museum that’s part of the Smithsonian. Also coming up with million-dollar gifts were Chicago philanthropists J.B. and M.K. Pritzker and Mellody Hobson and George Lucas.

Lynne Sweet details the treasures in the museum that tells the story of black America from slavery to modern black life.

Founding Director Lonnie Bunch III has been a guiding force in bringing the museum to fruition–from controversial Congressional approval to strategic fund-raising. Chicagoans will remember Bunch from his days as president of the Chicago Historical Society (from 2001 to 2005).

Sweet’s story lists some friends of President Barack Obama as donors, too. They are health-care entrepreneurs Eric and Cheryl Whitaker, who donated $250,000; Martin Nesbitt, chair of the Obama Foundation, and his wife, Dr. Anita Blanchard; and Johnson Publishing CEO Desiree Rogers, who each donated $100,000.

Louis Carr, a Chicago sales executive with Black Entertainment Television (BET), and his wife, Diane Dinkins Carr, an arts consultant, donated more than $25,000. Carr has known the Johnson family for decades.

The museum’s donor list also includes names with strong Chicago connections, though they don’t have an address here.

Oprah Winfrey gave $21 million. A theater in the museum carries her name.

Shonda Rhimes gave $10 million through her Rhimes Family Foundation. She’s the creative voice behind the “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” TV shows and she’s a native Chicagoan who attended Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights before going on to earn a degree at at Dartmouth College.

David M. Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group, a private equity company in D.C, also gave $10 million. He’s been a major donor to the University of Chicago, where he’s served on the board.

Bulls great Michael Jordan gave $5 million.

Earl W. Stafford Sr., a New Jersey entrepreneur, and his wife, Amanda, gave $2 million. He earned his MBA from Southern Illinois University.

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