Photo credit: Alan Karchmer
Today marks the first anniversary of the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
On September 24, 2016, the first African American President of the United States, Barack Obama, opened the first national museum dedicated to honoring African American history. Among the thousands of attendees were the first African American First Lady Michelle Obama, civil rights icon John Lewis, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, and the museum’s founding director Lonnie Bunch.
Photo credit: Cliff Owen/ AP Photo
99-year-old Ruth Bonner, the daughter of a man who was born a slave in Mississippi, helped the Obamas officially open the museum by ringing the freedom bell.
Photo credit: Joshua Roberts/Rueters
“Today, we have with us a family that reflects the arc of our progress: the Bonner family ― four generations in all, starting with gorgeous 7-year-old Christine and going up to gorgeous 99-year-old Ruth,” President Barack Obama said in his speech prior to ringing the bell. “Ruth’s father, Elijah Odom, was born into servitude in Mississippi. He was born a slave. As a young boy, he ran, though, to his freedom. He lived through Reconstruction and he lived through Jim Crow. But he went on to farm, and graduate from medical school, and gave life to the beautiful family that we see today ― with a spirit reflected in beautiful Christine, free and equal in the laws of her country and in the eyes of God.”
Since its historic opening, the museum has welcomed nearly 3 million visitors and hosted 46 public programs. To celebrate its one-year anniversary, the museum kicked off a multi-day celebration of activities and special performances on Saturday, September 23. The festivities will conclude on Tuesday, September 26 with “Reflections of the Little Rock Nine 1957–2017”, a moderated panel discussion with six of the nine of the Little Rock Nine.
Photo credit: Allison Shelley
“We are so grateful to America for making this first year unprecedentedly successful,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the museum. “This first anniversary gives us at the Smithsonian the opportunity to thank everyone for this incredible gift and for making it possible to continue our mission to help America grapple with history by seeing their past through an African American lens – and ultimately help Americans find healing and reconciliation.”
Have you visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture?