First African Amer­i­can mu­seum opens its doors

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

THE first na­tional US mu­seum de­voted ex­clu­sively to African Amer­i­can his­tory and cul­ture has of­fi­cially opened in Wash­ing­ton DC.

US Pres­i­dent Obama and his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, opened the new mu­seum on the Na­tional Mall on Satur­day by ring­ing a bell from a historic African Amer­i­can church with help from the Bon­ner fam­ily, the el­dest of whom, Ruth Bon­ner, was the daugh­ter of a man born a slave in Mis­sis­sippi.

The $540m Smith­so­nian Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture (NMAAHC) is the only one of its kind in the coun­try, ex­clu­sively ded­i­cated to black Amer­i­can his­tory. “We are not a bur­den on Amer­ica, or an ob­ject of shame and pity for Amer­ica,” Obama, the first black US pres­i­dent, said at the open­ing cer­e­mony on Satur­day. “We are Amer­ica.” He also said the mu­seum will give peo­ple “a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of them­selves” by teach­ing them about oth­ers — slaves, the poor, black ac­tivists, teach­ers.

“A clear-eyed view of his­tory can make us un­com­fort­able. It will shake us out of fa­mil­iar nar­ra­tives. It is pre­cisely be­cause 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. One of suf­fer­ing and de­light. One of fear but also of hope,” Obama said.

The push for the mu­seum be­gan in 1915 with African Amer­i­can civil war veter­ans look­ing for a way to com­mem­o­rate Amer­ica’s black ex­pe­ri­ence.

For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush signed the law au­tho­ris­ing the con­struc­tion in 2003. Bush also spoke at the open­ing cer­e­mony and said the mu­seum will in­spire the na­tion to “go fur­ther and get there faster” on its jour­ney to­wards jus­tice.

Bush said a great na­tion does not hide from its his­tory, “it faces its flaws and cor­rects them”.

For­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den and Ge­or­gia Con­gress­man John Lewis, who cospon­sored leg­is­la­tion au­tho­ris­ing the mu­seum, were present at the cer­e­mony. — AP

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