National Museum of African American History and Culture grand opening

- The first national museum devoted exclusively to the history and culture of African-Americans is now open. President Obama dedicated the museum in a ceremony in the morning, joined by tens of thousands of people.

It opened to the public at 1 p.m. following the dedication ceremony. 

The Howard University "Showtime" marching band entertained as the crowd filled seats set up between the museum and the Washington Monument.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama opened the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall by ringing a bell from a historic African-American church. The Freedom Bell, acquired in 1886 by the historic First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Virginia. That church is believed to be among the first Baptist churches organized entirely by African-Americans for African-Americans. It will be returned to the church for its 240th anniversary later this year.

The museum is the 19th and the newest of the Smithsonians.

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 authorizing the construction in 2003. Georgia Congressman John Lewis co-sponsored legislation authorizing the museum. The civil rights icon said the bronze-colored museum "is more than a building, it is a dream come true."

President Barack Obama says the new national African-American history museum helps tell a "richer and fuller" story of who we are as Americans.

Speaking at Saturday's dedication ceremony, Obama says the museum will give people a better understanding of themselves by teaching them about others — slaves, the poor, black activists, teachers. He says knowing their stories will help Americans understand each other better.

Obama says African-American history isn't separate from the larger American story, but is a central part of the American story.

The president was helping to officially open the National Museum of African American History and Culture at an outdoor ceremony on the museum grounds.

It's located on the National Mall, just down the street from the White House.

The museum will keep its doors open for extended hours Monday through Friday, September 26 – 30, 10 a.m.– 7:30 p.m, Saturday, October 1, 10 a.m.– midnight, and Sunday, October 2, 10 a.m.– 10 p.m.



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