It is a reflection of the shadow cast by America’s original sin but also of our ongoing, imperfect and controversial efforts to address it, which in the last few years alone have included the Black Lives Matter movement, a number of major if calibrated addresses from President Obama, Coates’ call for reparations for African Americans and the ongoing refusal by some professional athletes to stand during the national anthem. The museum’s skin — has that typically benign architectural term ever been more charged? — allows it to stand apart from the Mall’s white-marble monuments like a rebuke.


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