It’s finally here!
On Saturday, thousands flocked to Washington, D.C. to witness President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama help open the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African-American History and Culture.
“This national museum helps to tell a richer and fuller story of who we are,” Obama told the crowd.
“A great nation doesn’t shy away from the truth. We’re not a burden on America or a stain on America or an object of shame and pity for America. We are America. And that’s what this museum explains,” he said. “Hopefully, this museum makes us talk to each other and listen to each other and see each other,” he added.
And while the museum pays homage to our rich and resilient past, the President reminded the crowd that it’s also linked to this nation’s present and future, especially given the tumultuous racial times we’re currently living in.
“Perhaps it can help a white visitor understand the pain and anger of demonstrators in places like Ferguson and Charlotte. But it can also help black visitors appreciate the fact that not only is this younger generation carrying on traditions of the past, but within the white communities across the nation, we see the sincerity of law enforcement officers and officials who, in fits and starts, are struggling to understand and trying to do the right thing,” he said.
“It reminds us that routine discrimination and Jim Crow aren’t ancient history. It’s just a blink in the eye of history,” Obama continued.
“Today, we have with us a family that reflects the arc of our progress: the Bonner family ― four generations in all, starting with gorgeous 7-year-old Christine and going up to gorgeous 99-year-old Ruth,” the President said in a speech before ringing the bell.
“Ruth’s father, Elijah Odom, was born into servitude in Mississippi. He was born a slave. As a young boy, he ran, though, to his freedom. He lived through Reconstruction and he lived through Jim Crow. But he went on to farm, and graduate from medical school, and gave life to the beautiful family that we see today ― with a spirit reflected in beautiful Christine, free and equal in the laws of her country and in the eyes of God,” POTUS added.
The Obamas were joined by past and present members of government including Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, former President George W. Bush, Laura Bush, House Speaker Paul Ryan and civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis to name a few.
“While the journey has been long, today the history of African-Americans will finally take its place on the National Mall next to the monuments to Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson — exactly where it belongs,” Rep. Lewis told the crowd.
In addition, many Black celebrities attended the monumental event including Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith.
Singer Patti Labelle beautifully performed “A Change is Gonna Come.”
Angela Basset and Robert De Niro also took to the stage, while Andre Holland, Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, and Ava DuVernay and Gugu Mbatha-Raw were all smiles out front.
As usual, Janelle Monae was serving up Black Girl Magic.
And former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Stevie Wonder, Denyce Graves and Dr. Sharon Malone, who were also in attendance, posed for a quick picture.
The massive 400,000-square-foot museum, designed by British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye, houses nearly 3,000 items including the Tuskegee Airmen training plane and the casket of Emmitt Till, Harriet Tubman’s shawl and Jim Crow-era railroad cars.
Learn more about the National Museum of African-American History and Culture here.