Built on the last available five-acre site close to the Washington Monument on the National mall Washington DC, the Smithsonian African-American Museum of History and Culture 400,000 square-foot-building, opened on September 24th, 2016, after a dedication by President Barack Obama.
President Obama opened the new museum alongside the Bonner family who are the fourth generation descendants of the former slave Elijah B. Odom of Mississippi who gained his freedom by fleeing his owner. Ruth Bonner, Odom’s 99-year-old daughter rang a bell with the Obama’s dating back 1880s for First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Virginia.
President Barack Obama the first African-American president acknowledged the Smithsonian museum as a means of elevating the often ignored impact of black American while helping others understand the depth/scope of the American story. “This national museum helps to tell a richer and fuller story of who we are,” President Obama said at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture opening ceremony.
He added that understanding the story helps us understand ourselves better, indicating that the African-American history is not somehow separate from the larger American story; he called it an “act of patriotism” to comprehend the African-American history and the struggles of all Americans. Obama also said the museum can provide context to the current national debate on the relationship between law enforcement and black communities that recently made headlines following the police shooting deaths of black men in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
The opening ceremonies featured musical performances by Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle, and Denyce Graves, celebrations, as well as a look at the museum’s place in American history. The former President George W. Bush, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton, Rep. John Lewis and Lonnie G. Bunch III -The founding director of the museum- also spoke at the event. Notable figures such as Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith; Robert De Niro and Angela Bassett, read the words of black poets and historians.