New museum honouring blacks opens amid racial strife
PRESIDENT Barack Obama hailed the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a long-awaited institution dedicated to the many threads of black suffering and triumph in the US.
Mr Obama cut the ribbon to inaugurate the striking 37,000-squaremetre bronze-clad edifice before thousands of spectators, at a time of growing racial friction.
“African American history is not separate from our larger American story. It’s not the underside of the American story,” Mr Obama said. “It is central to the American story.”
The Smithsonian’s 19th addition to its sprawling museum and research complex is the first national museum tasked with documenting the uncomfortable truths of the country’s systematic oppression of black people, while also honouring the integral role of African American culture.
“A clear-eyed view of history can make us uncomfortable,” Mr Obama said. “It is precisely of that discomfort that we learn and grow and harness our collective power to make this nation more perfect. That’s the American story that this museum tells.”
Elected in a wave of optimism in 2008, Mr Obama pledged to unify, often repeating that he is not the president of black Americans but of all Americans.
But as his presidential mandate ends polls show that the overwhelming majority of Americans see US race relations as “generally bad”.
President Barack Obama (right) watches as his wife Michelle embraces former president George Bush at the dedication of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington on September 24.