John Kinard, The First African American Director Of A Smithsonian Institution Museum

| How Africa News


Kinard, John Robert Edward, was a social activist, pastor, and museum director. He is probably best known for his work as the director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Museum, which opened in 1967. Kinard was the museum’s first African American director, a position he held until his death.

Kinard was born in Southeast, Washington, D.C. in November 1936 to Robert Francis and Jessie Beulah (Covington) Kinard. He attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., after high school, and later transferred to Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1960.

Kinard joined Operation Crossroads Africa (a precursor to the Peace Corps) in 1962, while attending Hood Theological Seminary, and spent a summer in Tanzania building student housing and dining facilities. The founder of Operation Crossroads, Dr. James Herman Robinson, encouraged him to return to Africa. Kinard did so after graduation, eventually becoming a paid employee of the organization.

Kinard had returned to Washington, D.C. by 1964. He found work as a counselor with the Neighborhood Youth Corps, a program established by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 to provide work experience and encourage at-risk African American youth to stay in school.

In 1966, S. Dillon Ripley, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, began pushing for a new and innovative kind of Smithsonian museum. Kinard was named the director of the Anacostia Museum in July 1967. He held the position until his death in 1989.

In 1978, Kinard helped co-found the African American Museum Association (AAMA), an umbrella group which represented small local African American art, culture, and history museums across the United States. Kinard suffered from myelofibrosis, a disease in which bone marrow cells become abnormal and create collagenous connective tissue fibers rather than new bone marrow. Although he had been heavy-set most of his life, he began to lose weight during the last months of his life. He died on  August 5, 1989.


Written by How Africa News

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