President Donald Trump toured the Smithsonian’s newest museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, for the first time on Tuesday morning.
“This is a truly great museum,” Trump told reporters during a press appearance following his visit. “I’ve learned and I’ve seen and they’ve done an incredible job."
Museum director Lonnie Bunch and Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton led the tour for the president, who was accompanied by the nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson and his wife, Candy, Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, presidential aide Omarosa Manigault and his daughter Ivanka Trump.
As they stood in front of the “Paradox of Liberty” exhibit, Bunch discussed how each of the 612 bricks flanking a statue of Thomas Jefferson were inscribed with the name of an enslaved worker Jefferson owned.
“You can’t understand Jefferson without understanding slavery,” Bunch said. Even more than that, he added, the point of the exhibit is to explore the forgotten people that shaped America. “For us, this whole museum is about humanizing stories of people that have been left out of history.”
During his stay, Trump hailed the exhibit about Ben Carson in the “Making a Way Out of No Way” gallery. “We’re proud of Ben, very proud of Ben, especially Candy,” he said, referring to Carson's wife.
The president’s visit during Black History Month provided an opportunity for him to touch on his frequent promise to deescalate racial tensions in the country. "We have a divided country. It’s been divided for many, many years. But we’re going to bring it together," he said.
Before leaving, the president promised to return to the museum soon. “What they’ve done here is something that probably cannot be duplicated,” he said. ”It was done with love and lots of money, right Lonnie? We can’t avoid that. But it was done with tremendous love and passion and that’s why it’s so great.”