A noose was found in the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) on Wednesday, near an exhibit highlighting segregation in the United States, Reuters reports.
The noose — long representing the taut and dark history of racism in this country — was said to be found in a public gallery on the second floor; also home to a private, more secluded gallery that houses the coffin of Emmett Till, the Black teenager who was lynched in Mississippi after being falsely accused of whistling at a White woman.
The area was closed off to guests for about three hours while U.S. Park Police investigated.
In an internal email, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Davis Skorton called the incident an "act of hatred."
"The Smithsonian family stands together in condemning this act of hatred and intolerance, especially repugnant in a museum that affirms and celebrates the American values of inclusion and diversity," he wrote. "We will not be intimidated."
“The noose has long represented a deplorable act of cowardice and depravity — a symbol of extreme violence for African Americans," founding director Lonnie Bunch wrote in a statement. “This was a horrible act, but a stark reminder of why our work is so important."
This is the second time in less than a week that a noose has been found on Smithsonian grounds. Last Saturday, the symbol of hatred and death was found hanging from a tree near the Hirshhorn Museum. The incident is yet another in a month marred with racially motivated attacks from self-proclaimed White supremacists, including the Portland attacks and the fatal stabbing of Bowie State student Richard Collins III.
Authorities do not yet know who is responsible for the act. An investigation continues.