It has been more than 100 years that an African American museum was proposed. Today, on September 24th, 2016, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture became a reality when it opened its doors in Washington, D.C.
The inauguration led by President Obama as attended by former US Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton.
The museum has a collection of more than 35,000 artifacts from around the world including a slave cabin, Harriet Tubman's hymnal, Michael Jackson's fedora, Marian Anderson's costume, Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington's Jazz outfits, Soul Train outfits, etc.
In his dedication remarks, President Obama said:
"This national museum helps to tell a richer and fuller story of who we are. It helps us better understand the lives of yes, the president, but also the slave. The industrialist but also the porter. The keeper of the status quo but also the activist seeking to overthrow that status quo."
Alluding to the racial divide still rocking the core and soul of the American society and to on-going discussions amid the repeated killings of unarmed African Americans by law enforcement officers, President Obama added the Smithsonian African American History and Culture Museum is a "place to understand how protest and love of country don't merely coexist but inform each other: How men can proudly win the Gold for their country but still insist on raising a black-gloved fist. How we can wear an 'I can't breathe' t-shirt but still grieve for fallen police officers. Here's the American where the razor-sharp uniform of the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, belongs alongside the cape of the godfather of soul."
President Barack Obama pointed out the challenges of being black in America, from slavery and Jim Crow segregation to voting rights and economic opportunities. He pointed to the pervasive duality of successes, such as his presidency, and trials and tribulations, such as the police killings of unarmed black men.
“We are not a burden on America. Or a stain on America … we are America. And that’s what this museum explains,” President Obama said.
The African American History museum was first proposed in 1915 by Black veterans of the American Civil War.
Lonnie Bunch, the Museum Director, said during the ceremony that the museum is a "clarion call to remember: To remember not just the well-known, but also those famous only to their families, whose lives in quiet ways shaped this nation. We remember so we can ponder the pain of slavery, segregation and second-class citizenry, but we also find the resiliency, the faith, the hope, the joy that is so much a part of the African-American community."
The ceremony was attended by several personalities, from many sectors. As part of the opening ceremony, media mogul Oprah Winfrey and actor Will Smith read lines of famous black writers and civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison and others.