The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is opening on Saturday at the National Mall in Washington. The museum includes 12 inaugural exhibitions and almost 37 thousand artifacts. Only three thousand will be exhibited at the opening.

The idea of a national African-American museum dates back to the Civil War, and after more than a century the concept is finally a reality. The museum will show the characteristic fedora that belonged to Michael Jackson, slave shackles, a Tuskegee Airmen biplane, and even a guard tower from Louisiana State Penitentiary.

National Museum of African American History
“Tomorrow we ring the historic First Baptist Church ‘Freedom Bell’ to mark our Grand Opening. The church is one of the country’s oldest African-American houses of worship. Several bells across the country will ring in tandem,” said the National Museum of African American History. Image credit: @nmaahc.

Among the collection, it is also the dress that Rosa Parks was sewing before she was arrested for refusing to give her seat on a segregated bus on December 1, 1955.

The Muhammad Ali headgear worn by the legend at the 5th Street Gym in Miami is part of the exhibition and a hand-painted banner for Obama’s presidential campaign that was modified after America elected his first black President.

The museum is 400,000 square foot and is designed to tell the complicated and irrepressible story of black people in America. It is located just to the east of the Washington Monument.

President Obama has visited the museum a couple of times before its opening Saturday. He described the place as “a breathtaking new building.” At the opening ceremony, President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, President George W. Bush, Laura Bush and others will speak.

The dedication ceremony will begin at 10:00 a.m at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Musical performances and readings of African-American literature start at 09:00 a.m. Barack Obama will lead the dedication ceremony.

Barack Obama: ‘History doesn’t always move in a straight line’

The opening of the museum comes when current national attention is focused on police shootings of black men in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte. Protests and violence continue to spread throughout the country.

National Museum of African American History
A sneak peek of the Oprah Winfrey theater. Image credit: @joelmgs

“The timing of this is fascinating because in so many ways, it is the best of times. But in many ways these are also troubled times. History doesn’t always move in a straight line, and without vigilance, we can go backward as well as forward,” said president Obama about when talking about the museum.

Obama also invited presidential candidate Donald Trump to visit the African American Museum. Trump has been criticized for his comment on Black people. Las week he said: “African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape than they’ve ever been in before, ever, ever, ever.”

Many streets around the museum will be closed on Saturday and security points will be around the mall. The opening will be live-streamed on the museum’s website.

Source: The New York Times