The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History has been in the making for over a decade—it was established back in 2003 and is the first museum dedicated to black history in America.
Lonnie Bunch is the museum’s founding director, and the process of curating 400 years of black history has been deeply personal. “I want people who come through the museum to be changed, to realize that the African American experience is the quintessential American experience,” he says in this documentary by The Atlantic. “When you want to understand core American values of resiliency, optimism, spirituality, where better to look than within the African American community?”
National Museum of African American History and Culture
SMITHSONIAN MUSEUM, WASHINGTON, D.C.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is a Smithsonian Institution museum established in 2003. The museum’s building, designed by David Adjaye, is currently under construction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.. Early efforts to establish a federally owned museum featuring African American history and culture can be traced to 1915, although the modern push for such an organization did not begin until the 1970s.
After years of little success, a much more serious legislative push began in 1988 that led to authorization of the museum in 2003. A site was selected in 2006, and a museum design approved in 2009. President Barack Obama helped break ground for the building on February 22, 2012. First concrete was poured in November 2012, and construction will be complete in April 2016. Smithsonian officials have announced that the museum will open on September 24, 2016.
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