Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III to embark on national book tour

A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama, and Trump goes on sale Sept. 24


Cover of "A Fool's Errand" by Lonnie G. Bunch

Founding Director Lonnie Bunch’s deeply personal tale of the triumphs and challenges of bringing the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture to life. His story is by turns inspiring, funny, frustrating, quixotic, bittersweet, and above all, a compelling read.

Lonnie G. Bunch III, the newly appointed 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian, will embark on a national tour to discuss his new book A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama, and Trump. The tour kicks off in Chicago on Sept. 19 and takes him to seven cities in the U.S. in 2019, with more dates in 2020 to be announced.

The book chronicles the strategies, the support systems and the coalitions Bunch put in place to build the Smithsonian’s 19th museum, one that would attract more than four million visitors during its first two years. The book goes on sale Sept. 24, the third anniversary of the museum’s opening. A public event will be held that day at the museum in Washington, D.C. in celebration of the anniversary.

About the Book

A Fool’s Errand is the story of how one man was tasked with leading the team that created a preeminent cultural institution to document the African American story and show how that story is the quintessential American story.

NMAAHC Groundbreaking

Smithsonian senior staff and members of the National Museum of African American History and Culture Council break ground for the new museum in a ceremony held Feb. 22, 2012. From left to right: Richard Parsons, co-chair, museum council; Patty Stonesifer, Smithsonian Board of Regents member and former chair; Laura Bush, former First Lady and museum council member; Wayne Clough, Secretary, Smithsonian Institution; Lonnie Bunch, director, National Museum of African American History and Culture; Richard Kurin, Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, Smithsonian; France Córdova, chair, Smithsonian Board of Regents; and Linda Johnson Rice, co-chair, museum council. Photo by Michael Barnes)

This inside account of how Bunch planned and managed more than a decade of work leading up to the opening of the museum. This story informs and inspires not only readers working in museums, educational institutions and activist groups, but also those in the nonprofit and business worlds who wish to understand how to succeed—and do it spectacularly—in the face of major political and financial challenges.

Outlining the challenges of choosing a construction site, commissioning a team of architects, raising more than $400 million, designing exhibitions and building a collection of nearly 40,000 objects, Bunch also delves into his personal struggles including the stress of a high-profile undertaking.

Construction site showing cranes and heavy equipment working on foundation.

The construction site of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., April 17, 2013. (Photo by Michael Barnes)
National Museum of African American History and Culture; (NMAAHC) construction site – Conststution Avenue and 14 th Street image taken on Conststution site April 17, 2013

Bunch is also co-author of The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden (Smithsonian Books, 2000) and From No Return: The 221-Year Journey of the Slave Ship São José (Smithsonian Books, 2017).

About the Tour

During the tour stops, Bunch will discuss the book with high-profile journalists and historians, including Scott Pelley, Gayle King and Henry Louis “Skip” Gates. The schedule for the 2019 tour is as follows:

  • Sept. 19 – Chicago History Museum, Chicago
  • Sept. 24 – The National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C. In conversation with Scott Pelley, correspondent for the CBS News’ “60 Minutes.”
  • Oct. 1 – The Apollo Theater, New York City. In conversation with Gayle King, co-host of “CBS This Morning.”
  • Oct. 14 – The African American Museum in Philadelphia, a Smithsonian Affiliate (This event is private, but open to the media)
  • Oct. 15 – The Museum of the American Revolution, Philadelphia. In conversation with Scott Stephenson, museum president and chief executive.
  • Oct. 23 – Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, Boston. In conversation with Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.
  • Oct. 24 – The Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
  • Nov. 16 – Nate Holden Theater, Los Angeles

Book tour tickets must be reserved at


Posted: 22 August 2019
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