National Museum of African American History and Culture – Smithsonian (photo courtesy of the Smithsonian)

A noose was found today inside the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, DC, hanging at an exhibition exploring segregation in America. It’s the second time the racist symbol has appeared on the grounds of a Smithsonian institution in less than a week, following a security officer’s discovery of a noose hanging from a tree outside the Hirshhorn Museum this past Friday evening.

At NMAAHC, which only opened last September, a tourist had found the rope lying in a gallery hosting the exhibit, Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: Era of Segregation 1876–1968. As Buzzfeed first reported, the finding prompted museum staff to close the gallery for an hour as police arrived to remove the noose. As with the situation at the Hirshhorn, officials have not yet identified any suspects, and criminal investigations are currently underway.

“The noose has long represented a deplorable act of cowardice and depravity— a symbol of extreme violence for African Americans,” the museum’s founding director, Lonnie Bunch, said in a statement. “Today’s incident is a painful reminder of the challenges that African Americans continue to face.

“Our museum is a place of learning and solace, a place to remember, to reflect and to engage in important discussions that help change America. This was a horrible act, but it is a stark reminder of why our work is so important.”

The proximity of this week’s incidents, in both time and location, suggests a connection, but they are far from isolated cases. A number of nooses have been found around the country in the last year alone, reflecting a nationwide rise in hatred and intolerance. The ominous signs have previously appeared at a construction site in Washington, DC, a shipping terminal in Oakland, and a middle school in Maryland. A recent report, jointly created by ProPublica and the Southern Poverty Law Center, cited 1,372 bias incidents in the US between the day after the November Presidential election and February 7, 2017.

Claire Voon

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...