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Johnnetta B. Cole, renowned scholar and trailblazer in education, was named director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. Cole will take charge of the Washington D.C.-based museum beginning March 2.
“The primary qualification we were looking for was investment and engagement with Africa and African art. You have to have an enthusiasm and an affinity for Africa, and Cole has that,” says Christine Mullen Kreamer, acting director and curator at the National Museum of African Art. Kreamer was also part of the museums search committee.
Coming from a rich tradition of African Americans rooted in academia, Cole currently heads the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute at Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina. The institute works to establish diversity and inclusion in the workplace. She served as president of the historically black college from 2002 to 2007.
Most notable is the Florida native’s appointment as the first female president of Spelman College in Atlanta. During her 10-year tenure, the college received a $20 million gift from actor Bill Cosby and wife, Camille. She was also instrumental in raising $113 million for the school.
In her role as director at the museum, Cole will be spearheading fundraising and awareness efforts. Kreamer says it’s Cole’s commitment to teaching others about the African Diaspora that makes her a fitting addition to the museum. She’s a “proven leader” and “respected scholar.”
Cole is no stranger to the organization. She served on the scholarly advisory board of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture since it’s inception, and she has worked with a number of Smithsonian programs since the mid-1980s.