President speaks at black history museum groundbreaking
February 22nd, 2012
01:25 PM ET

President speaks at black history museum groundbreaking

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Smithsonian Institution officially began 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.

Construction of the Smithsonian's 19th museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture – to be located on the National Mall – is expected to last three years. The museum is slated to open in 2015.

The nation's first black commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama, delivered remarks and spoke of the importance of the museum’s location.

“It was on this ground long ago that lives were once traded, where hundreds of thousands once marched for jobs and for freedom. It was here that the pillars of our democracy were built, often by black hands,” the president said. “And it is on this spot –- alongside the monuments to those who gave birth to this nation, and those who worked so hard to perfect it –- that generations will remember the sometimes difficult, often inspirational, but always central role that African Americans have played in the life of our country.”

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," according to the Smithsonian website.

“This was true bipartisan effort, echoing the museum’s message of unity. What a magnificent location, in view of powerful symbolism. It is a fitting home for this museum, invoking the indelible threads that connect African American stories to the American tapestry,” said Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

Former First Lady Laura Bush and democratic Congressman John Lewis of Georgia were among the other speakers celebrating the onset of the museum’s construction.

“I look forward to the day when I can amble through the exhibit, search through the archives, participate in a program, rest my tired feet in a café and get lost in history inside the granite wall of an idea whose time has finally come, “ Rep. Lewis predicted. “We didn't give up, didn't give in. We didn't give out. We didn't get lost in a sea of despair. We kept the faith. We kept our eyes on the prize.”

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 was 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 also performed.

CNN's Alan Silverleib contributed to this story

soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. MTATL67

    I'm surprised that Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich aren’t ranting and raving criticizing President Obama for supporting a special interest group

    February 22, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • John

      500 million dollars to this project, 200 million to the Mob museum in Vegas – I am sure of these fine projects are all worth borrowing more billions from China.
      The Tea party is the only hope for working Americans. Yesterday's news has 49.9% of Americans paying nothing into the system now. And you cowardly libs who feel the need to call me names, as you always do, keep them to yourself. If you want to have a discussion about the Tea Party I am open to it. Just don't make up stuff, as you always do, just to bash. Try to bring at least one valid point to the discussion.

      February 23, 2012 at 8:53 am |
      • WIMPY38

        John: You sound like one of those 1% ers who lost their "oh-i'll-always-be-alright-because-my-company-is-great" job.

        February 23, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
      • John

        I am just a concerned citizen who wonders why everyone we vote for needs new governmnet programs and projects to spend money on instead of looking at ways to stop the crazy spending. I am not a 1% person. I am one of the 2nd tier people – you know – the 49% who pay the bills for things like this and pays for the other 49% who do not pay anything into this system.

        February 23, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  2. judy

    hey give them time Im sure a lot of the repo crazies will start making remarks . This is just the kind of stuff that gets them all riled up.

    February 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  3. NOvember 2012

    This morning obama was in Florida..shut down air traffic for two passengers..I guess he was watching some basketball game. Mz obama did the same thing...on her 16th vacation last week. Don't mean a thing unless you are a poor little taxpaying American trying to get someplace to works..or God forbid take a vacation. This obamas act like they are king and queen of the shame.

    February 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Robert

      And I suppose you complained when President Bush visited your state? Somehow I doubt it.....

      February 22, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • jean2009

      Nobrains2012 The only person with shameless lies is you. You have been listening to much Crowley at Faux.

      Today Wednesday, February 22, 2012 the President is in Washington DC dedicating the new wing at the Smithsonian.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
      • John

        Jean, what news do you watch. And... what exactly did Crowley say to make you feel the way you do? I see many people talking down Fox, but they never actually have any facts to back up anything they write. You can't honestly tell me MSDNC is better (at anything) than Fox.

        February 23, 2012 at 11:54 am |
      • jean2009

        For starters I don't regularly listen to MSNBC....How does Monica Crowley lie?...plan and simple. Not one mention of Osama bin Laden but she claims President Obama "had a year of serious and dangerous foreign policy blunders" .......really...what blunders? How did she miss he increased employment, the economy is improving, he took out bin Laden, al Awlaki, Gadhafi.

        Basically Fox hired another lacking in depth reporters ....a blond bimbo. Just another surface feeder to appeal the brainwashed Teapitty masses. Much like the rest of Faux' crew of dropouts.

        February 24, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Howard

      OBAMA ... proclaims: ground breaking ... is that the same as shovel ready???

      February 22, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
      • Julie

        – Hi GuysA finerd of mine (Jess Scott) recommended I check out your work.Very interesting! Just wanted to say how impressed I am with the photos…that’s some serious photography! Anyways, we’re travelling through Africa and thought we’d say hi.I hear Burundi is dangerous at the moment but everyone has an opinion. (Might visit if it's safe)We are in Tanzania and then off to Rwanda (which I hear has some of the best coffee in the world…) Keep up the good work!Alex & Kath

        March 2, 2012 at 4:43 am |
  4. tom clements

    Food Stamp President

    February 22, 2012 at 11:54 pm |

    Its so amazing what people will say when they dislike! God bless the union.

    February 23, 2012 at 5:38 am |
    • John

      Do you mean dislike like when someone openly takes your money and spends it on things that should be privately funded? I guess we can add expenses for this museum to the same bill as the Holocaust Museum – just over 40 million annually.

      February 23, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
      • jean2009

        First learn some facts before you post. The Smithsonian was founded in 1846 by an act of congress. It is our National History Museum. Obviously history is one among the many things at which you don't excel. The building was a gift, and yes it does receive donations but history is important.

        You are probably upset because we don't have a National KKK museum.

        February 24, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  6. NOTmyPrez

    Obama is black?? Hmm....he acts like just another facist know it all...I guess it is hard to tell who is what anymore!

    February 23, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  7. Erich Hicks

    Keep history alive by telling that history:

    Read the greatest 'historical novel', Rescue at Pine Ridge, the first generation of Buffalo Soldiers. The website is: This is the greatest story of Black Military History...5 stars Amazon Internationally, and Barnes & Noble. Youtube commercials are: and

    Rescue at Pine Ridge is the story of the rescue of the famed 7th Cavalry by the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers. The 7th Cavalry was entrapped again after the Little Big Horn Massacre, fourteen years later, the day after the Wounded Knee Massacre. If it wasn't for the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, there would of been a second massacre of the 7th Cavalry. This story is about, brutality, compassion, reprisal, bravery, heroism, redemption and gallantry.

    You’ll enjoy the novel that embodies the Native Americans, Outlaws and African-American/Black soldiers, from the south to the north, in the days of the Native American Wars with the approaching United States of America.

    The novel was taken from my mini-series movie with the same title, “RaPR” to keep the story alive. The movie so far has the interest of, Mr. Bill Duke, Hill Harper, Glynn Turman, James Whitmore Jr., Reginald T. Dorsey and a host of other major actors in which we are in talks with, in starring in this epic American story.

    When you get a chance, also please visit our Alpha Wolf Production website at; and see our other productions, like Stagecoach Mary, the first Black Woman to deliver mail for the US Postal System in Montana, in the 1890's, “spread the word”.


    February 23, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  8. Ivan

    How come there is no White Museum.
    After all who settled and farmed this country first.
    Oh wait that would be racist hummm???

    February 28, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  9. Txjack

    Can we start a Confederate Museum or would that be racist as well.

    February 28, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Steveo

      They already exist!

      February 28, 2012 at 5:56 pm |