A noose was found hanging at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday — the second noose to be found on Smithsonian grounds this week.
Museum officials condemned the act as a symbol of hatred.
“Our museum is a place of learning and solace, a place to remember, to reflect and to engage in important discussions that help change America,” Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the museum, wrote on Twitter.
“This was a horrible act, but it is a stark reminder of why our work is so important,” Bunch added.
The noose was found hanging at an exhibition about segregation. According to Smithsonian officials, the noose was removed and the exhibit reopened within three hours.
“The Smithsonian family stands together in condemning this act of hatred and intolerance, especially repugnant in a museum that affirms and celebrates the American values of inclusion and diversity,” David Skorton, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, said in an Institution-wide email. “We will not be intimated. Cowardly acts like these will not, for one moment, prevent us from the vital work we do.”
The museum has been deemed safe, but the investigation remains ongoing.
“I don’t know what to say,” Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said to BuzzFeed news.
Last week a noose was also found hanging from a tree outside the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, another Smithsonian museum.. Authorities said it was unclear when the noose was put there or how long it was there for before it was discovered.
The Hirshhorn is a contemporary art museum. According to BuzzFeed News, “When asked if the museum had hosted any recent exhibitions that might prompt an extremist to take such action, St. Thomas responded, ‘There isn’t an exhibition about a racial anything. It’s just a contemporary art museum.’”
But the NMAAHC incident carried different implications.
“We do consider this one to be different,” St. Thomas told BuzzFeed. “In this case it’s clearly a message to the museum.”
In his message on Twitter, founding director Bunch said, “The noose has long represented a deplorable act of cowardice and depravity — a symbol of extreme violence for African Americans. Today’s incident is a painful reminder of the challenges that African Americans continue to face.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the noose “depicts the horrors of racial violence perpetrated against African Americans and others” even more so than a burning cross.
“Nooses show support for the days of segregation and subjugation, epitomizing the essence of discrimination,” according to SPLC. “The noose not only symbolizes racism, but also served as the actual murder implement for the lynching of people because of the color of their skin.”
The noose’s roots trace back to the days of lynching African Americans, but the symbol continues to show up even today.
In May the FBI launched an investigation at American University in Washington, D.C., where bananas were found hanging from nooses on the campus after Taylor Dumpson, the university’s first Black female student government president, took office. Messages were written on bananas such as “AKA free,” apparently referring to the sorority of which Dumpson is a member. Founded in 1908, AKA became the country’s first Greek-letter organization established by Black college women.
Online threats against American University’s student president were encouraged by a neo-Nazi website publisher who endorsed the candidacy of Donald Trump.
In April, at the University of Maryland, a noose was found hanging in the kitchen of the Phi Kappa Tau chapter house on Fraternity Row.
In March, Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala in Florida received a noose and several racist, threatening messages. The first envelope, received on March 20, contained a message that said, “SOONER OR LATER A N****R WILL BE A N****R.” Also enclosed were business cards with the message, “You are an Honorary Member of S.P.O.N.G.E.” on one side and “Society for the Prevention of N****rs Getting Everything” on the other. The envelope containing the noose was received on March 28. According to Orlando Weekly, it “contained an index card with a noose made of green twine taped to the card, according to the report.”
The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) was established in 2003 and opened to the public in September 2016. It has more than 36,000 artifacts pertaining to African American history. Former President Barack Obama opened the museum.