This essay investigates the cultural forces that shaped the development of the post 1945 founders, founding directors of African American museums and the pioneers at historically white institutions, such as the Smithsonian. All of these people were shaped by the “Negro Canon” whose principal components were the African American political and cultural activists of the earlier twentieth century such as Carter G. Woodson and Alain Locke, and their exposure to the society of “historically Black colleges and universities” (HBCUs). These experiences helped them creatively adapt to the rapidly shifting socio-political environment of the postwar era to change forever the cultural landscape of the United States.

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