February 22nd, 2012
10:01 AM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Smithsonian Institution will officially begin construction Wednesday on a new museum dedicated to African American culture and heritage - a complex committed to the celebration and study one of the central components of the American story.
The nation's first black commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama, will deliver remarks at the 10 a.m. groundbreaking ceremony for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Former first lady Laura Bush is also scheduled to attend.
Construction of the Smithsonian's 19th museum - to be located on the National Mall - is expected to last three years. The museum is slated to open in 2015.
The museum "will be a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped us shape this nation. A place that transcends the boundaries of race and culture that divide us and becomes a lens into a story that unites us all."
The five-acre site, selected six years ago by the Smithsonian, is located between the Washington Monument and the National Museum of American History. The museum will be the first environmentally sensitive "green" building on the Mall. It is expected to cost $500 million, half of which will be covered by federal funds.
The groundbreaking ceremony will be emceed by actress Phylicia Rashad, best known for her role as Claire Huxtable in the 1980s sitcom hit The Cosby Show. Opera singers Denyce Graves and Thomas Hampson will also perform.
CNN's Alan Silverleib contributed to this story