WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- In the shadow of the monument dedicated to our nation’s first president stands a new building -- honoring an instrumental group of Americans.
“We needed to craft a museum that would use the history and culture of the African American History community as a lens to better understand what it means to be an American," said Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Planning for the NMAAHC officially began 2003, but the idea actually came from black Civil War veterans over a hundred years ago. It didn’t happen easily.
“It’s the only one of our buildings constructed without a pre-existing collection," explained David Skorton, Secretary of the Smithsonian.
People and organizations across the country donated and loaned artifacts to the museum. Dr. Susan Dollar’s historical preservation group loaned a bell, which once rang on a plantation in Louisiana.
“It’s important that we make sure the people who come after us know the story that came before us all," said Dollar.
And there are so many stories here. From slavery to civil rights to the Black Lives Matter movement to the cultural impact of African Americans – music, sports, and even food.
Skorton says the collection is as diverse as the people associated with it.
“Opening now, at a time when social and political discord remind us that racism is, unfortunately, not a thing of the past, this museum can, and, I believe, will help advance the public conversation," said Skorton.
It’s going to be a celebration all weekend long as President Obama officially dedicates the museum Saturday morning, September 24. After that, the museum will open to the public. Admission is free, but because of the overwhelming interest, the museum will distribute timed entry passes daily.