The White House Blog

President Obama at the Ground Breaking Ceremony for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

President Obama delivers remarks during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (February 22, 2012)

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture site in Washington, D. C., Feb. 22, 2012. First Lady Michelle Obama attended the event with the President and other participants included: former First Lady Laura Bush; Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray; Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.; Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas; Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, pastor, Abyssian Baptist Church, New York; Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the museum; Richard Kurin, undersecretary for History, Art and Culture at the Smithsonian; Linda Johnson Rice and Richard Parsons, co-chairs of the museum’s advisory council; Dr. G. Wayne Clough, Secretary, The Smithsonian Institution; Lonnie Bunch, Founding Director, Smithsonian's National Museum of African-American History and Culture; and Dr. France Córdova, Chair, Smithsonian Board of Regents.. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

This morning, President Obama was on hand for the ground breaking at the site of the future Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

He told those assembled on the National Mall:

Just like the Air and Space Museum challenges us to set our sights higher, or the Natural History Museum encourages us to look closer, or the Holocaust Museum calls us to fight persecution wherever we find it, this museum should inspire us as well.  It should stand as proof that the most important things in life rarely come quickly or easily.  It should remind us that although we have yet to reach the mountaintop, we cannot stop climbing.

As he considered what the museum will mean and the history that it will cover, the President talked about what he wants his daughters to experience: 

I want my daughters to see the shackles that bound slaves on their voyage across the ocean and the shards of glass that flew from the 16th Street Baptist church, and understand that injustice and evil exist in the world. But I also want them to hear Louis Armstrong’s horn and learn about the Negro League and read the poems of Phyllis Wheatley. And I want them to appreciate this museum not just as a record of tragedy, but as a celebration of life.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture was approved by the Smithsonian Board of Regents in 2006, and the new building is scheduled to open to the public in 2015. The museum will sit on a five acre site, between 14th and 15th Streets N.W. -- near the Washington Monument.


Learn more