National Museum of African American History and Culture opens

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The opening ceremony for the museum got underway Saturday morning in Washington D.C. (WLS)

President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush were on hand in Washington D.C. as the Smithsonian Institute opened the highly-anticipated National Museum of African American History and Culture Saturday morning.

Hundreds came out to the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago for a free watch party Saturday and additional watch rooms were set up to accommodate the large crowd.

National Museum of African American History and Culture was built on five acres on the National Mall. The exhibits inside reflect hard work and dedication of all those that were involved.

The exhibits are equal parts celebration and somber reflection.

"Having a museum of this caliber in its rightful place recognizing the importance of our heritage, our history, is going to make our future much more peaceful, much more intelligent, much more understanding, much more tolerant," said DuSable Museum President and CEO Perri Irmer.

One of the most talked about pieces is the original casket of Emmett Till. The casket was discarded in a shed in Burr Ridge Cemetery and discovered years after Till's body was exhumed. It was donated by Till's mother and restored by the museum.

Doctor Lonnie Bunch is the founding director of the museum, and it very proud of what it's become.

"You can't understand resiliency and strength without understanding the travails," said Dr. Bunch.

Chicago features prominently throughout the museum. There is memorabilia from figures like Harold Washington, Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey.
"So much of the history that is tied to America runs through Chicago. We talk about the Chicago Defender and the migration of blacks from the South to the North," Bunch said.

Many of those new to the city decades ago came to Quinn Chapel, the first African American church in Chicago established in the 1840s. Bunch befriended the congregation and asked the church to donate a pew, which now sits in the museum.

"We were overjoyed to realize and recognize that Quinn Chapel is being included among American history," said Rev. James Moody of Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church.

The museum also has a personal connection for ABC7 Eyewitness News reporter Karen Jordan. There is a clip of her father Robert Jordan and his co-anchor performing their handshake routine, which went viral. There is also a concert poster of her great aunt, opera singer Mattiwilda Dobbs.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama 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.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Related Topics:
societymuseumsblack historyu.s. & worldWashington D.C.
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