The former U.S. deputy attorney general and retired general counsel and secretary for PepsiCo and his wife, a retired Atlanta Public Schools clinical school psychologist, have amassed one of the largest collections of African-American art in the country and have promised additional gifts to the museum. They also agreed to fund a new curatorial position at the museum that will be responsible for overseeing the museum's African-American and African art holdings, developing special exhibits and educational offerings, conducting research, and publishing.
Last year, "Tradition Redefined," a large touring exhibit curated from the Thompsons' collection, helped inaugurate the museum's $20 million, 30,000-square-foot expansion. A comment made by an African-American high school student after viewing the exhibit that it seemed to represent "freedom" moved the Thompsons and may have spurred their gift.
"We hope other students — black, white, or whatever — will see the work and get that same feeling, that you can't just typecast African-American art," said Brenda Thompson.