By Tammy La Gorce, The New York Times
Loreen Williamson and Pamela Thomas know that there are funkier figures in history than Booker T. Washington. Bear with them, though, and they will connect the dots that landed him in the Museum of UnCut Funk.
The visage of Mr. Washington, the 19th-century author and educator, is printed on a 1947 half-dollar coin featured in “For the Love of Money,” an exhibition of blacks on United States currency at the Museum of American Finance in Manhattan, on view through January. The show, with more than 35 coins, tokens, medallions and medals that celebrate black history leaders, events and institutions, is on loan from the Museum of UnCut Funk, the online destination for all things funky, which Ms. Williamson and Ms. Thomas began to curate about a decade ago.
“I bet you didn’t know there was all this money with actual black people on it,” Ms. Thomas said. “And I doubt anybody knows the process that was undertaken to get these people put on currency.” That process includes presidential authorization only after two-thirds of both the House and the Senate have first voted to approve the idea, she explained. “If you look at it from the perspective of, ‘Well, damn, I had no idea about this,’” she said, “that makes it pretty funky.”
Ms. Williamson continued, “This may be our most traditional show in that it’s the kind of thing you’d expect to see in a black history exhibition.” She and Ms. Thomas founded the funk museum, which usually focuses more on pop culture, in 2007. Besides Mr. Washington, other figures whose images are cast in bronze, gold and silver within the single-room show on Wall Street in the financial district include Joe Louis, Bessie Coleman and the Tuskegee Airmen.