The first national museum devoted exclusively to the history and culture of African-Americans is now open, the AP reports. The Obamas 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 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 its 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 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. Obama praised the museum as a pure illustration of the historical contrasts in "the American story...one of suffering and of delight, one of fear but also of hope." (Read more National Museum of African American History and Culture stories.)