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American Alliance of Museums Announces Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole to Join AAM as Senior DEAI Fellow

Category: Press Release

ARLINGTON, VA – August 2, 2022 – The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) today announced that renowned museum leader and social justice advocate, Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, will join the Alliance as a Senior Diversity Fellow.

Over the course of several years, Dr. Cole has partnered with AAM, including serving as co-chair of the AAM DEAI Working Group that preempted AAM’s unprecedented Facing Change: Advancing Museum Board Diversity & Inclusion initiative. Working closely with AAM leadership and DEAI lead, Grace Stewart, over the next year she will be participating in activating the just released Excellence in DEAI report, formulating plans for how AAM can best support people of color and DEAI changemakers in the museum field, and advising on AAM’s forthcoming five-year DEAI plan.

“Our collective efforts in progressing diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion work in the museum field have evolved for years,” said Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole. “But there is so much more work to be done, and I am delighted to be joining AAM in the next iteration of that work. AAM’s commitment to embedding DEAI into standards for museums reinforces that to be an excellent museum, one must be committed to DEAI.”

“Dr. Cole’s landmark keynote address at the 2015 AAM Annual Meeting jump-started DEAI work at the Alliance and her clarion call has continued to guide our work over the years,” said Laura Lott, AAM President and CEO. “We are privileged to have Dr. Cole join us in helping guide our work to embed DEAI into all of AAM’s excellence programs, including the Code of Ethics and Accreditation.”

Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole is an accomplished educator and museum professional; noted speaker and author on issues of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion; and a committed advocate for social justice. Dr. Cole rose to national prominence as the first African American woman President of Spelman College and, later, as President of Bennett College, making her the only person to serve as president of both historically Black colleges for women in the United States. After retiring from academia, Dr. Cole served as the Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art for eight years. Upon her retirement from the Smithsonian she received the title of Director Emerita. Following her years at the Smithsonian, Dr. Cole was a Principle Consultant with Cook Ross, a management consulting firm, and a Senior Consulting Fellow at the Mellon Foundation. Most recently, she served as the National Chair and Seventh President of the National Council of Negro Women, an advocacy organization with more than 2 million members, working in the interest of women’s rights and civil rights. She has authored, co-authored, and edited several books and numerous articles for scholarly and general audiences, and is the recipient of numerous awards including 70 honorary degrees.

About the American Alliance of Museums

The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) is the only organization representing the entire museum field, from art and history museums to science centers and zoos. Since 1906, we have been championing museums through advocacy and providing museum professionals with the resources, knowledge, inspiration, and connections they need to move the field forward.


Press Contact:

Natanya Khashan

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