A noose has been found hanging inside the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, and U.S. Park Police are investigating.
Tourists found the noose Wednesday afternoon inside an exhibit on segregation, the Smithsonian Institution said in a news release.
“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,” museum director Lonnie Bunch wrote in an email to staff.
Park police removed the noose and closed the museum for about an hour while police investigated.
“We were leaving the segregation gallery. We were walking through and then the guard came up and said, ‘Everybody out! Everybody out!’ So, they rushed us through, and at the time we were not aware of what was going on. We just knew we had to leave that area immediately,” tourist Tracy Grant told News4.
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“It’s very hard. It’s very, very, very upsetting,” she said. “We were very emotional to begin with. This is history. This should not be happening in this day and age.”
It’s unclear if surveillance cameras in the museum may have captured who hung the noose. The investigation is ongoing.
The noose was found less than a week after another noose was found on the National Mall, hanging from a tree outside the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
Kinshasha Holman-Conwill, the African American museum’s deputy director, said the mission of the museum continues.
“We don’t let acts of cowardice like this deter us. We are, if anything, even more vigilant and even more determined to tell this important story,” she said.
In its release, the Smithsonian Institution cited several similar incidents that have recently occurred across the country.
“Other nooses have been found on the Duke University campus, the Port of Oakland in California, a fraternity house at the University of Maryland, a middle school in Maryland, and at a high school in Lakewood, California,” it said. “All of them seem to be part of a larger wave of violence, intimidation and hate crimes.”
On Thursday morning, the museum was operating as usual.