The new African American Museum in Washington, D.C., now plans to acknowledge the dozens of sexual allegations against comedian Bill Cosby in its exhibit on black entertainers and artists, Smithsonian officials announced Thursday.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture has two Cosby-related items — a comedy album cover and a comic book tied to the comedian’s 1960s TV drama “I Spy” — in its exhibit “Taking the Stage,” which documents African-Americans’ impact on entertainment in the U.S. The museum purchased both items on eBay, Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas told the Associated Press earlier this week. Cosby wasn’t helping the new museum financially, she added.
Originally, the museum planned to pair the items with historical facts and sidestep the numerous accusations of rape and assault that have followed the 78-year-old for decades. To date, more than 50 women have come forward to publicly accuse the legacy artist, which culminated in a sexual assault charge in December. Prosecutors filed criminal charges against Cosby for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his Pennsylvania home in 2004.
The museum, which opens Sept. 24, said the exhibition never meant to honor or celebrate Cosby. Lonnie Bunch, the museum’s founding director, said in a statement released Thursday that the display will acknowledge Cosby’s alleged sexual misconduct. No further information was given on how the museum will exactly address this.
“Like all of history, our interpretation of Bill Cosby is a work in progress, something that will continue to evolve as new evidence and insights come to the fore,” Bunch said. “Visitors will leave the exhibition knowing more about Mr. Cosby’s impact on American entertainment, while recognizing that his legacy has been severely damaged by the recent accusations.”