Obama to open African-American museum in Washington

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US President Barack Obama is due to open a new museum about the African-American experience in Washington DC.

The $540m (£415m) Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture would “tell a story of America that hasn’t always taken a front seat”, Mr Obama said.

On Friday he said it would also educate Americans about the history of the racial tensions seen during protests over police killings of black men.

The latest have engulfed two US cities.

“As a people, we’ve rightfully passed on the tales of the giants who built this country,” Mr Obama said during his weekly address to the American people.

“But too often, wilful or not, we’ve chosen to gloss over or ignore entirely the experience of millions upon millions of others.”

He added: “And so it is entirely fitting that we tell this story on our National Mall, the same place we tell the stories of [President George] Washington and [President Thomas] Jefferson and our independence.”

The sun rises over the SmithsonianImage copyrightAP
Image captionThousands of visitors are expected for the opening

The bronze-coloured museum, designed by British architect David Adjaye, is located on Washington’s National Mall – not far from the White House.

It contains 36,000 items, ranging from trade goods used to buy slaves in Africa to a segregated railway car from the 1920s and a red Cadillac convertible belonging to rock’n’roll pioneer Chuck Berry.

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While some of the artefacts depict the slavery era, others show how black culture has come to define American culture, says the BBC’s Nick Bryant in Washington.

Black veterans of the US Civil War first proposed an African-American museum in 1915. Congress approved its creation in 2003, and construction of the 37,200 sq m building took almost four years.

The museum’s opening is being celebrated with three days of festivities, including concerts by artists such as rap group Public Enemy and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

– BBC

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