31 Oct 2018

Building on History

Work on African American museum caps a long career of firsts


James Cash is the James E. Robison Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus. He joined the HBS faculty in 1976, and has taught in all the major HBS programs. He served as chairman of the MBA Program (1992 to 1995) and as Senior Associate Dean and Chairman of HBS Publishing.

“I've been very blessed to be the first African American to do a range of things in my life, starting with integrating what was called the Southwest Conference in 1965 as the first African American to receive a basketball scholarship. That was a blessing and, I think, set the stage for a range of other things that I've had the opportunity to do, including becoming the first tenured African American at the Harvard Business School.

“If I were to describe for you what I consider the most important contribution in my life, however, it was the 12-year journey to help build the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. This museum documents the story of a country that adopted a set of values in the 18th century that it lived up to over the next 200 years, slowly but consistently, and continues to follow in a very dramatic and consistent way. It's hopefully a celebration of how a country can move from a period of abject slavery and oppression to a country that celebrates its diversity of many types and kinds.

“That, without a doubt, is the thing I am most proud––of all the things I've worked on and been exposed to in my life. I hope at some point everyone will go and visit.”

(Published October 2018)


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