On Saturday, Sept. 24, thousands gathered for the historic opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. With more than 100 years having passed since the museum was first proposed, Saturday's official opening was an important and historic day for the United States. Among attendees of the event include former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, President Obama, and Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden. Georgia Representative John Lewis offered powerful remarks on the African-American history museum's opening, as well, stating, "There were some who said it couldn’t happen, who said 'you can’t do it,' but we did it."
The museum was 13 years in the making after Congress first approved it, and Lewis worked hard to make its opening a reality. In an article for the Washington Post, he recounted how the National Memorial Association came together in 1916 to discuss "the creation of 'a beautiful building' they hoped to establish on the Mall." After working so hard for this historic moment, Lewis shared on Saturday, "That we are giving birth today to this museum is a testament to the dignity of the dispossessed in every corner of the globe who yearn for freedom. It is a psalm to the scholars and scribes, scientists and teachers, to the revolutionaries and the voices of protest."
Watch a clip of his remarks here:
In a post shared on the White House website, Lewis reflects on the significance of this museum and the hard work it took to get here:
It is important that The National Museum of African American History and Culture tells the unvarnished truth of America's history -- a story that speaks to the soul of our nation, but one few Americans know.
It's a reminder that 400 years of history can't be buried; its lessons must be learned. By bringing the uncomfortable parts of our past out of the shadows, we can better understand what divides us and seek to heal those problems through our unity.
Lewis later shared, "As these doors open, it is my hope that each and every person who visits this beautiful museum will walk away deeply inspired, with a greater respect for the dignity and worth of every human being, and a stronger commitment to the ideals of justice, equality, and true democracy."
Lewis' remarks and the timing of the museum's opening are especially important as the nation faces an ongoing crisis of police violence against African-Americans. The people of Charlotte, North Carolina, have responded with demonstrations to the police killing of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott, a black man who was shot and killed by police. As Congress has taken the necessary steps to create space for the history and culture of African-American communities today, it's time to take action against the systemic abuses of policing as well.