Broad-shouldered and grizzled, John Kinard settles back in his chair, chin on chest, eyes flashing from under drawn brows. With the stern manner of an old-time preacher, the director of the Smithsonian's Anacostia Museum places one large hand flat on the desktop for emphasis and, lowering his deep gravelly voice almost to a whisper, begins: "A curator is a person who is responsible for the preservation of the soul of man," he intones. "The black experience is so rich, so dynamic. It's filled with reward, chaos, confusion. If you don't have people who curate and bring alive these things, communicating to the people, then you lose the soul. But you won't find them down in the museums {on the Mall}, you see." John Kinard's cause is the preservation of African American heritage -- particularly that of his home community of Anacostia -- and the Anacostia Museum is his forum. Located for 20 years in the old Carver movie theater on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, the museum recently moved to a renovated Smithsonian facility in Fort Stanton Park. Kinard proposed this interim move three years ago with a view to finding a larger permanent home at the more accessible Poplar Point, a wide green meadow on the banks of the Anacostia River across from the Navy Yard. In its current location, set high on a gentle, scenic hill, the museum and its wooded grounds overlook the ragged, rundown clutter of inner-city housing and the Capitol dome across the river, vague in the hazy distance. It seems remote from the concerns of downtown Washington, the throngs of tourists who visit the Mall. And that's the problem, says Kinard. It is remote, and it's too small. For more than five years, Kinard has been fighting for the money to move the museum to Poplar Point to accommodate a comprehensive collection detailing the black experience in America. What's more, Kinard would like to see an additional major museum of African American history on the Mall, a subject of much debate. But right now his hands are full with plans for his own baby. "When you talk about John Kinard," he says flatly, "you are talking about the Anacostia Museum." At 53, Kinard is frustrated and weary of the effort -- especially weary of battling the endless red tape and what he sees as a sickness at the heart of one of this country's most respected institutions: widespread institutional racism. It's this he blames for lack of movement on the Anacostia Museum relocation at a time when he contends the need is stronger than ever. Two years ago, in an emotional address to the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on interior, Rep. Sidney R. Yates (D-Ill.), Kinard pleaded his case for money to build the larger museum at Poplar Point, and for the hiring of more blacks in senior Smithsonian positions. He told Yates that "... over the years, blacks in particular have felt that there was no haven {at the Smithsonian}. Because of the nature of racism. "The outcome of all of this inactivity has to do with very poor {black} self-images. It gets down to people shooting each other," he said. "It gets down to crime in the streets because people don't know who they are. They don't know where they are. They find themselves unchallenged as far as the high road is concerned and have no vision about what {it} is possible for them to become. They have no vision of truly being an American, or about feeling accepted and {knowing} that they are somebody and life is worthwhile. "... I look upon you {Yates}," Kinard continued, "in this particular instance as the court of last resort. I have been trying to develop the Anacostia Museum and have been able to bring it to a certain point. It is a small baby as far as I'm concerned. It was convenient to start something off in a ghetto. A ghetto operation as it were. But a ghetto operation for 20 long years?" Kinard is regarded by Smithsonian colleagues as a venerable, intensely civic-minded director as well as something of a gadfly, and opinions of him are both enthusiastic and guarded. Says Smithsonian Undersecretary Dean Anderson, "Kinard is the dean of our museum directors. He's been the director of that museum longer than anybody else. Over 20 years now. And we've all got a great deal of respect for John." The Anacostia Neighborhood Museum began as the brainchild of former Smithsonian secretary S. Dillon Ripley, who recognized a need, in Kinard's words, for "more minorities to participate in acquiring the riches of the Smithsonian." Kinard took the position of director -- with some reservations -- in 1967, at the behest of Marion Hope, a committee member of the Greater Anacostia People's Corp. and one of the museum's four founders. Hope, Almore Dale, Stanley J. Anderson and Alton Jones worked with the Smithsonian to make Ripley's concept a reality. At the time, Kinard worked for the Office of Economic Opportunity, overseeing the operation for Maryland's Eastern Shore. He knew nothing at all about museums, and said so. But Hope had made up her mind that he was the man for the job, and so had Ripley. Via Charles Blitzer, now head of the Woodrow Wilson Center, Hope introduced him to the secretary, who promptly said, "Thanks for taking the job." "While I was standing there in his office," Kinard recalls, "I thought, what the hell? Everybody ought to take a leap once in their lives -- just jump and not know where they'll land." Fact is Kinard had already taken quite a few leaps in his busy career. Having received his bachelor of divinity degree from Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury, N.C., in 1963, he led a group of American and Canadian college students to Kenya to work on self-help projects with African students. Later, attached to the Operation Crossroads Africa organization, he developed self-help projects in Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Zambia and other African countries. On returning to the United States, he went back out on the streets of Anacostia to work with welfare recipients and troubled youths with the Poverty Program of the Southeast Neighborhood House, an independent agency of the United Planning Organization -- all this before joining the OEO. Married in 1964 to his wife Marjorie, Kinard has three daughters, aged 20, 13, and 12. The family lives in a big rambling house on Maple View Place SE, just down the hill from the museum. "My wife supported me in my endeavors," he says. "Without her support it would have been impossible for me to spend the long hours and the energy doing the things I was doing." Kinard also credits the museum's board, principally made up of Anacostia community residents, with standing by him. Recently diagnosed as having an unspecified bone marrow disease that has rendered him severely anemic and caused him to lose some 60 pounds since last November, Kinard needs all the support he can get. He undertook his museum mission with zeal, learning the ropes as he went. "I believe that the opening of the Anacostia Museum is truly an important event in the history of museums," Ripley said at the museum's dedication. "I suspect that museums will never quite be the same again, and perhaps our cities won't be either." But the early days were tough. The potentially dangerous street life of busy Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue deterred many people from visiting the exhibits Kinard and his small staff labored to mount. "The junkies were on the corner," says Kinard, "but they respected the place. Although those people were in no position to help themselves, they did not want to destroy something they respected. But their appearance on the corner and around the area provided a not-so-wholesome invitation." But by begging and borrowing, Kinard managed to put together show after show to try to entice the black community to learn about the African American heritage it was the museum's expressed mission to bring to life. And, slowly, the museum came to life. The original Neighborhood Museum truly was just that. Kinard's first order of business was to interest the community in coming there. "The museum opened with artifacts from the national collection," remembers Kinard. "Some from the Museum of Natural History, some from the National Museum of American History and some from the National Zoo. We had squirrel monkeys, gerbils and hamsters, a black snake, fish, frogs and other animals. The adults of the community would come and bring their children, and they would give us ideas {for future shows}. They also gave us ideas about community problems . ... "They were crime, drugs, housing, education and employment. The first two were symptoms of fear and lack of skill in working together to assault the situations that confronted {the community}. Crime and drugs represent frustration and lack of direction, not only on the part of the addicts but on the part of the residents. ... And my feeling was that a museum has to be sensitive to issues that affect the community it serves, and try to do something about it rather than stand aside and act as an observer." Besides the first year's exhibits of borrowed material, there were local arts and crafts exhibits and displays of archival materials mounted for educational purposes. The museum also opened its doors to live blues, jazz and rock-and-roll concerts by prominent black musicians. The staff taught art courses for neighborhood children, as well as elementary history courses centered on African American cultural development. Since moving to its new location in 1986, the museum has mounted exhibits encompassing both art and cultural history, such as "Inspiration: 1961-1989," which featured the work of such local African American artists as James Lesesne Wells, Delilah W. Pierce and the late Alma Thomas, and the current exhibit, "The Real McCoy: African American Invention and Innovation," which examines the contributions of blacks to industry and technology, curated by the museum's resident historian, Portia James. Kinard doesn't want to move his museum to the Mall. He wants to remain the Anacostia Museum because, as he puts it, "there are neighborhood issues that are also citywide issues that are black issues. So my position is that we ought to stay here, because people tend to want their history to stay where they made it." He wants the Anacostia Museum to be a shining example to other museums of African American history -- and there aren't too many of them at present. He also wants to see a comprehensive, national African American museum on the Mall, as the Anacostia Museum's collecting activities are limited to the Southeastern states, a region he terms the "Upper South." But he wants more space to develop the Anacostia's collection. Tom Freudenheim, the Smithsonian's assistant secretary for museums, counters that "where to put something is not the first issue of starting a collection. Don't you think with all the stuff the Smithsonian collects -- millions of items -- everybody wants more space? But all this gets lost in the bitching and moaning -- which is not to say John doesn't have a real problem in location and inadequate space. I don't blame him for feeling frustrated. But we're addressing the issue in the context of a larger question of what to do with the whole African American museum thing, and there's a lot of stuff to go through with that. John isn't the only one now. His museum is just one of a lot of issues we have to deal with." There has been little or no movement of consequence on either relocating and enlarging the Anacostia Museum or creating a new museum on the Mall, says Kinard. And in his opinion, the reason is simple: "Racism," he says, bluntly. "It's my view that {Smithsonian Secretary Robert McC.} Adams would never agree to an African American museum on the Mall, nor would he ever say that he does not want to have {the Anacostia Museum} in a place where it can get wide exposure, because he is a racist, and he does not want the power of telling the truth about America from a black perspective put in black hands. Now that's my vision of it. I mean he is so wishy-washy I never know what he is saying. Double talk. "He is a closet racist," he declares. "He presides over a situation that does not encourage minorities to feel that they have a place. The blacks get beat up on emotionally, as far as employment and promotions are concerned. "Listen," Kinard says urgently, leaning forward and slapping the table to punctuate his dark cadence, "these white guys they work for don't respect black views. I don't care if you've got a PhD. Because your face is black they don't respect you. You're not supposed to know as much as they know, you're not supposed to have the power they have, so they beat up on you. They kick your ass. Make you feel low down, so when these guys retire they're just wrecks, man. Emotionally. "And I was telling Yates this in front of a group of people -- and in a passionate manner -- that you got to do something. You need to bring into this place somebody like {Harvard's black conservative psychiatrist and educator Alvin} Poussaint to tell you to your white face what you are about. You need to have these people come in and confront you so that you know what you are doing to {black} people. There's no sense in bringing on a whole new crew that's going to get emotionally slaughtered and not make a contribution. They can't make a contribution, man, because they're scared!" To Kinard's allegations, Adams responds, "My impression is that the institution is trying very hard to make some changes, and I think we've made some real progress in that direction. But John has a point of view that needs to be expressed within the institution. I've certainly never tried to get him to tone down. "The fact is that Washington is a racist city, and there are certainly a lot of problems with racism around the country. I can only do what I think is right. ... The fact is that in the senior ranks where minority representation really counts, there's not a lot of turnover. I think that the only way you can {integrate more minorities} fairly and effectively is to do it collegially, and not impose some set of arbitrary quotas. The people that want to can call that lack of leadership, but those who really want to crack the whip and impose such things immediately are risking the tradition of quality that goes with the institution. I think we need to move more through persuasion and less through compulsion." Adams says he thinks that proponents of an African American museum on the Mall and a new facility for Anacostia Museum are "living in an ivory tower, to assume that under these budgetary circumstances they can have what they want any more than any other branch of government can. ... There are many competing demands, and John happens to see the slow movement on his museum as a matter of racism." "One thing I'll say about Adams," says Kinard. "Adams will tolerate views that he doesn't like or agree with, without being punitive -- at least in my regard." He smiles a world-weary smile and sighs, "But that doesn't mean anything gets done." The entire debate over whether to move the Anacostia Museum and/or establish a new African American museum on the Mall intensified earlier this year after two events: the introduction by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) of a bill to create an African American museum on the Mall, based on a proposal by Washington businessman Tom Mack, and the decision by Adams to go ahead with plans to move a large part of the collection of the Museum of the American Indian from New York to a new museum to be constructed on the Mall next to the Botanic Gardens. "The Smithsonian, you know, doesn't have a large collection of black material," Kinard says. "My vision is that the Smithsonian Institution ought to take the lead in developing a national African American Museum on the Mall. And forget about Tom Mack, the Congressional Black Caucus. ... And this is what I told the secretary -- before the Indian thing. And you know what he tells me? 'You're not in the real world.' He said we couldn't finance such a thing. And then the Indian thing gets started. Do you know of a big hue and cry for a museum from American Indians? "What the secretary wants done in order to waste time," Kinard says, "is a long drawn-out theoretical study, not a master study. I'm asking for a master plan of concept, design, cost factors and architects. I'm asking for money to do all that. ... He wants money to do a theoretical 'should we have an African American museum?' study. I mean, who's against an African American Museum? Nobody. So why go through the hoops of talking to somebody about this? He's stalling." Yates, however, believes Adams is moving to make Kinard's wish for a larger Anacostia Museum a reality. "In presentation of the budget several months ago," he says, "they {the Smithsonian} said that there is money in their budget for the Anacostia Museum master plan and that they're going ahead with that. That's what he {Kinard} wanted, isn't it? And we are saying to them that we have your statements and we approve of those." But even Adams concedes that the "master plan" Yates refers to is not what Kinard has been asking for. "It's only a very preliminary stage of planning," Adams says. "I don't think we're in a position to actually draw up plans for a building and so forth, because I don't think we're going to find the monies for that for some years to come. Besides, the Black Caucus doesn't have its act together yet as to what it wants to see in a bill. I understand that they don't want to introduce a bill until they know exactly how they want to do this. So we're in a holding position until that gets done." Neither Kinard's appraisal of Adams nor his insistence on the importance of moving the Anacostia Museum is unanimously shared by other Smithsonian museum directors or administrative staff. Even those who agree with him, however, are afraid to speak on the record, a fact he does not easily let pass. "The problem is that they fear being honest and telling the truth," says Kinard. "They're afraid that they'll jeopardize their own plans if they go on the record. I think that they're a bunch of chickens protecting their own little nests." Peggy Cooper Cafritz, chairwoman emeritus of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, who sits on the cultural equity subcommittee of the Smithsonian Cultural Education Committee, says: "Unless the right people are in the right positions, the right policy is not going to flow. Adams is not a racist. He is a decent man who does feel some sense of moral imperative. But he does not possess the leadership capacity to demand change. "Adams's style of leadership, which is purely collegial, isn't likely to impose a mandate on directors to deal with institutional racism. And they are not going to respond to true excellence unless they are forced to." Director of the National Portrait Gallery Alan Fern says he believes Kinard's problem is the sheer scope of his demands. "I understand his frustration," says Fern. "I think that John's problem is that he hasn't gotten adequate articulation of his needs. I don't think his problem is as simple as a racist attitude. I don't accept that there is institutional racism here in that way." Yet National Museum of American History's Spencer Crew, who curated the popular exhibit "From Field to Factory," says, "I think there are different circumstances that create different problems for blacks here. My feeling is that things are not as bad here {American History} as they are in other bureaus. "I understand John's feelings," he says. "The Anacostia Museum has been neglected over the years, and he hasn't been able to do the things he's wanted to do. I think he's been left out of things and he's rightfully upset about it. With regard to cultural diversity, the public verbiage has been very good, but there remains a great deal to be done in real terms. There need to be blacks hired into the decision-making structure over at the Castle. I think there are many places here where they have to work very hard to get their proposals through. There are bureaus around here where {proposals for exhibits etc. by blacks} are actively resisted." And in a report to Secretary Adams dated Jan. 29, 1989, the cultural equity subcommittee expressed its concern with the "troubling results" of a study of minority representation in the Smithsonian that showed "a shocking absence of minorities in senior-level administrative and professional positions." The report went on to cite Freudenheim as having said that "audience consideration and the Smithsonian mandate to increase and diffuse knowledge {are} not important factors in decision-making, but that {the} approbation of colleagues and peers certainly is." Today Freudenheim says "that comment was taken out of context. That's not what I was trying to say. There is an enormous amount of change going on even as we speak. But it's not fair to create a situation where people are expecting things to happen overnight. Institutional racism? Sure, to some extent that's true. It's true everywhere. Look around at other places ...," he says. "But," says Freudenheim, "the secretary is moving aggressively to address this problem. For instance we just hired a Hispanic woman as a curator over at the Hirshhorn. We have internal policies which are very specific about nonexclusionary language in our {hiring} practices." Freudenheim, who describes his job as "overseeing museum stuff," is also involved in the questions of relocating the Anacostia Museum and the establishment of an African American museum. "We will very shortly put someone on to manage that as a project," he says. But, in Kinard's view, talk is talk. And while the Smithsonian administration is talking about whom to put on "to manage that as a project," he says valuable material is being lost for lack of a place to put it and lack of the funds to catalogue and index it. And to him, this amounts to a tragic loss because lack of an identifiable heritage has such a negative impact on black self-esteem. "This is a critical thing," Kinard says with a shake of the head. "This is a life and death thing. Why do people shoot each other in the head, man? Because they don't have respect for human life. Because they don't have a respect for history that they can know and understand. They don't share a knowledge of history of America for themselves." So the director hangs tough, constantly pushing. His mission is a matter of conscience and a labor of love. "The only way that I can live and work is like this," he says. "I wasn't chosen for this position, I didn't seek it out. The job found me. So I do everything I can do. I believe it's the will of God that I'm here. I'm a servant and I follow. So when I shuffle off this mortal coil, if it can be said of me that 'he was a good servant,' that will be enough. I just play my role, and when I'm gone somebody else will come along and pick up where I leave off. Just to be a good servant is all I aspire to." The Community Chest "I maintain that people born between 1900 and 1925 are the libraries of black America," says Anacostia Museum Director John Kinard. "And when one of those dies, a library dies. Not only what they possess in their trunks and suitcases, but what they possess in their minds: folk tales, histories of slavery and beyond, stories about incidents, medical cures and remedies. Any kind of history of slavery would have to come out of their heads because they knew their grandparents. "Our role is, number one, an institutional role. Since we started this museum, and because we have spread the word, to sensitize people to save and collect what they have. The problem is that the old folk don't trust the stuff to their children. They never talk to their children about it. They don't go into the trunk, they never say, 'Here on this picture is your uncle or aunt such and such.' "The children aren't sensitized to the virtue and value of history. I can't think of a black person I know, I don't care how well educated, who would take his family's collection and go to a museum and say, 'Would you be interested in this?' It doesn't occur to them. "The role of the Anacostia Museum is the development of sensitization, and to collect these things. But where are we going to put them? We need more space to do it." Historian Ed Smith, responsible for cataloguing the collection, says a recently completed inventory shows more than 5,000 items. Consisting largely of rare books, sheet music, church programs and other archival materials, the Anacostia Museum collection is a rich documentary source on the lives of some of Washington's black residents. "We have quite a number of paintings, and black newspapers from the 19th century," says Smith. "We have the papers and other items belonging to a number of local blacks, one being the papers of Dr. Charles E. Qualls, who was an Anacostia pharmacist. Also the papers of Mrs. Joy McClean Bosfield, an internationally known soprano." Smith said that perhaps the most important items in the collection are the papers of the Nannie Helen Burroughs estate. Burroughs was the founder of the National Training School for Girls, located on Burroughs Avenue NE and still in operation. There are American farm implements used by Southern blacks in the 19th century, and a number of African objects donated by the State Department. Other three-dimensional objects include a doll portrait of Revolutionary War era poet Sojourner Truth and a bust of Frederick Douglass by sculptor Ed Dwight, who created the full-size figure at the Frederick Douglass House. But Kinard would like to collect much, much more.