Construction has begun on the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.
President Barack Obama joined Former First Lady Laura Bush and Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) for a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday. The $500 million building will be the first museum on the National Mall devoted solely to black life, art, history and culture.
“The time will come when few people remember drinking from a ‘colored’ water fountain or boarding a segregated bus, or hearing in person Dr. King’s voice boom down from the Lincoln Memorial,” said President Obama. “When our children look at Harriet Tubman’s shawl or Nat Turner’s Bible or the plane flown by the Tuskegee Airmen, I don’t want them to be seen as figures somehow larger than life. I want them to see how ordinary Americans could do extraordinary things.”
The effort to develop an African American history museum on the Mall dates back nearly 100 years, when a group of black Civil War veterans proposed that a memorial to the African American struggle be constructed. Rep. Lewis took up the cause shortly after joining Congress in 1987.
“The story told in this building will speak the truth that has the power to set an entire nation free,” said Rep. Lewis during the ceremony. “The problems we face today as a nation make it plain — make it clear — that there is still a great deal of pain that needs to be healed.”
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is scheduled to open in 2015.