The Latest: Obamas officially open black history museum

AP News
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Posted: Sep 24, 2016 7:10 PM
The Latest: Obamas officially open black history museum

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (all times local):

12:30 p.m.

The first national museum devoted exclusively to the history and culture of African-Americans is now open.

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.

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 the 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."

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12:10 p.m.

President Barack 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.

The president was helping to officially open the National Museum of African American History and Culture at an outdoor ceremony on the museum grounds.

It's located on the National Mall, just down the street from the White House.

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12:05 p.m.

President Barack Obama says the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture will be a way to tell the incredible story of blacks in the United States.

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."

Before formally opening the museum, Obama will ring the Freedom Bell, acquired in 1886 by the historic First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Virginia. That church is believed to be among the first Baptist churches organized entirely by African-Americans for African-Americans. It will be returned to the church for its 240th anniversary later this year.

Obama was joined at the museum by his wife, Michelle, and former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

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12 noon

While the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture was a nonpartisan event, there was a little politicking at the opening ceremony.

After singing soulful rendition of the song "A Change is Gonna Come," singer Patti LaBelle said "Hillary Clinton" into the microphone before leaving the stage. Clinton is the Democratic nominee for president.

Clinton and GOP nominee Donald Trump will participate in their first presidential debate next week. Neither candidate attended the museum's opening.

Former President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton's husband, was seated in the front row of the official opening.

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11:46 a.m.

Former President George W. Bush says the Smithsonian's newest museum will inspire the nation to "go farther and get there faster" on its journey toward justice.

Speaking at Saturday's dedication ceremony, Bush said the museum tells the truth, that a country founded on the promise of liberty once held millions of people in chains.

Bush said a great nation does not hide from its history, "it faces its flaws and corrects them."

He says the U.S. is better and more vibrant because of the contributions of those who are featured inside of the museum, as well from the contributions of millions of other African Americans. He says no telling of American history will be complete or accurate without acknowledging that.

Bush signed the legislation in 2003 authorizing the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Bush's successor, President Barack Obama, will help officially open the museum to the public.

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11:16 a.m.

Rep. John Lewis says the Smithsonian's new African American history museum is more than a building, it is a great achievement and a dream come true.

The Georgia Democrat pushed for years for such a museum. President George W. Bush signed the 2003 legislation authorizing its construction on the National Mall.

Lewis says that as long as there is a United States of America, there will be a national museum of African American history and culture.

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture officially opens to the public on Saturday.

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10:55 a.m.

President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush took seats of honor at the opening ceremony of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

In 2003, Bush signed the law that allowed construction of the museum to move forward. Obama, who is featured in exhibits in the museum, will cut the ribbon opening the building later on Saturday.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts also sat on stage. Former President Bill Clinton sat among dignitaries in the crowd, next to Vice President Joe Biden.

Bush and Obama sat onstage together with their wives, Michelle Obama and Laura Bush. They were joined by civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, and museum founding director Lonnie Bunch.

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10:30 a.m.

Celebrities and dignitaries are mingling with eager crowds on the National Mall to wait for the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The Howard University "Showtime" marching band entertained as the crowd filled seats set up between the museum and the Washington Monument.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, actress Angela Bassett, House Speaker Paul Ryan and men representing the famed Tuskegee Airmen were some of the people seen in the crowd in front of the stage at the new museum awaiting the opening ceremony featuring President Barack Obama.

Expected to speak later in the day are actor Robert DeNiro, former President George W. Bush, civil rights icon John Lewis and finally Obama before he cuts the ribbon to open the museum.

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3 a.m.

President Barack Obama plans to officially open the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture at a ribbon cutting ceremony on the National Mall.

The new museum is located only steps away from the White House and the Washington Monument, which was dedicated to a slaveholder president, George Washington.

Museum officials say the new Smithsonian facility will chronicle the complex relationship between the U.S. and a people it once enslaved, and tell the story of those who worked to make the necessary changes to bring the country to where it is today.

Thousands are expected to gather on the National Mall on Saturday morning to watch the nation's first black president cut the ribbon to open the museum.

Ground was broken for the new museum in 2012.