Oprah Winfrey
**FILE** Oprah Winfrey (Courtesy of the Golden Globes)

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African History and Culture has announced that former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura, former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, museum council chairman and ex-CEO of American Express Ken Chenault, “Scandal” television series writer Shonda Rhimes and media magnate Oprah Winfrey will be the honorary chairs of its $350 million Living History Campaign.

The purpose of the campaign is to build the museum’s endowment and support its programs and digital narratives.

Kevin Young, the Andrew W. Mellon director of the museum, said the campaign is critical to the operation of the facility.

“It is really crucial to launching this fundraising campaign now — when the study and understanding of the African American experience are often under attack,” Young said. “We are the guardians of that history, and we need everyone’s help to ensure this history is told accurately as part of the American story. This campaign will help us build our endowment to keep the museum going in perpetuity and will also provide support for our programming, exhibitions, collections, and digital capabilities, so that around the nation and the world, any time of day, people can have this history in their hands.”

Winfrey said she is pleased to be part of the effort.

“One of the reasons I love this museum so much is because you must know from whence you come. … I think about all those who came before me and didn’t have the opportunities or choices my generation was given,” she said. “I think I owe them a resurrection. I feel that my life brings redemption to the lives they struggled to create and build for all of us.”

Museum officials said the campaign concludes in 2024. Although the museum is funded in part by federal appropriations, that funding only covers a portion of the museum’s annual operating budget.

The Living History Campaign is also a part of the Smithsonian Campaign for Our Shared Future, led by Lonnie G. Bunch III, secretary of the Smithsonian. The campaign is chaired by Tony Coles, LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Brian Moynihan.

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