Detail of Alma Thomas artwork of an eclipse.

Our Mission

Our mission is to explore the history and legacy of race and racism in the United States and globally. We seek to spark positive social change and build a more equitable shared future through interdisciplinary scholarship, creative partnerships, dialogue, and engagement.

Looking up into the ceiling of the Arts and Industries Building

Our Vision

Our vision is to create a hopeful future for all people using history and reconciliation to contextualize and transform our understandings and responses to race and racism.


Our Values

We believe that every person has a racialized identity and that each of us can be agents of change. We invite you to join us. The movement for racial justice is, and always has been, about making a better world for all of us.

We acknowledge that racism is a defining factor of our shared history. The disparate negative impacts of racial hierarchies persist globally. We must acknowledge and reckon with this racial past and its contemporary legacy.

We believe sex, gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and citizenship status, among other characteristics, intersect with racial identity to shape lived experiences. The struggle for equity requires an intersectional pursuit of justice.

We know that justice requires collective action. Therefore, we will build a broad foundation that includes cultural institutions, schools, government agencies, NGOs, community and youth-led organizations, scholars, activists, corporations, and others. We will create sustainable relationships based on respect and build networks that have the power to change inequitable conditions.

We know that representation matters. We also know that representation alone will not change structural conditions of racial injustice and inequity. To achieve an equitable and inclusive shared future, we believe that representation must be accompanied by reorganization of the structures that sustain inequality, access to decision making, and ongoing commitment to racial justice.

We uplift the people, communities, and organizations that have been at the vanguard of this work for generations and welcome those who are newer to the active pursuit of racial justice. We celebrate positive changes in personal relationships while pushing for change in structures, processes, policies, and culture that will move the marginalized to the center.

We acknowledge oppression, injustice, wrongdoing, harm, and trauma. We commit to providing supportive, non- threatening environments that encourage self-reflection and active listening. We believe reconciliation and forgiveness are part of the path to achieving unity and healing.

We affirm that museums have social value and convening power. We can provide historical context and opportunities for reflection. As we reckon with our roles in upholding and perpetuating the inequality created by colonialism, white supremacy, and patriarchy, we must listen to and learn from the diverse communities we serve to better collect, interpret, and preserve our shared history and future.

We recognize that the Smithsonian, like other institutions, has its own history of racism and exclusion. We are committed to unlearning harmful patterns and building better practices. We believe sustained deliberate actions can change institutional cultures. We want to become a diverse, inclusive, welcoming space of knowledge and discourse. Our work, therefore, requires internal examination. The Smithsonian must lead by example.

We understand that confronting race and racism is difficult but necessary work for all of us. We join the global movements for education about and accountability for systemic racism. We are committed to imagining and building our shared future, one in which all may prosper.