Several Black Republicans are lobbying the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture to acknowledge Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, saying that it does not adequately represent him and that an update to its exhibit is “long overdue.”
Rep. Byron Donalds, a Florida freshman, in a letter to the museum’s leadership, said that Thomas, as the second Black person to sit on the Supreme Court after Thurgood Marshall, deserved recognition.
"Black History transcends political correctness and partisanship," wrote Donalds. "Overall, the NMAAHC honors its mission, but it is unfortunate to see pitfalls likely driven by irresponsible bias."
The letter was also signed by fellow Republicans Sen. Tim Scott, Rep. Burgess Owens, Dr. Alveda King, Kay Coles James president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, and former Trump administration operative Paris Dennard, according to Fox News.
"As a Black man who has a profound respect for the contributions Justice Thomas has propitiated for generations to come, this museum must encapsulate his life as it does for hundreds of other monumental Black figures," Donalds continued. He said the current exhibit “falls short" of representing Thomas’ "achievements and life compared to his counterpart, the Honorable Justice Thurgood Marshall."
This isn’t the first time the NMAAH has been criticized by conservatives for what they felt was scant representation of Thomas. When it first opened in 2016, the only real mention of Thomas was in connection with his 1991 confirmation hearing that brought out allegations of sexual harassment by his former staff member Anita Hill. Conservatives accused the museum’s leaders of being biased.
In 2017, a larger exhibit featuring Thomas was opened at the museum, but Republicans still said it was not enough and said it was insignificant compared to the exhibit on Marshall.
"The American people deserve an unbiased assessment of the trailblazers in the Black community – it is time to honor Justice Thomas with this long-overdue documentation of his whole life and history and not the disingenuous effort displayed today," wrote Donalds.
In response, the museum released a statement, published by Artnet.com: “While all our exhibitions are based on rigorous research, they are still open to interpretation,” the statement reads. “Through scholarship, publications, and education, the museum will continue to explore the rich contributions and complexity of African Americans.”