February 22nd, 2012
10:01 AM ET

Smithsonian breaking ground on black history museum

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.

"Our purpose is to collect and preserve artifacts, documents, and art that reflect the history and development of the African American experience in its many aspects," the Smithsonian states on its website. "Subjects will include the era of slavery, the period of Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, and the civil rights movement."

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

soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Emmy Skaddittle

    It should be interesting, i really liked the American Indian museum

    February 22, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  2. Steve

    Black people sure do have a rich culture. They're very good at stealing, raping, and destroying once great cities.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Clark Morris

      Had it not been for Black people, you idiot, how would this country have been built? Go back and read some of the history of this country. Start by maybe READING, you can do that right? Slavery by Another Name is a good place to start.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • BLKMANnAmerica

      REALLY.......................so that is to say saltines have never done that in history? LMBAO..........."steal" that is such a saltines MO.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • maff

      you might want to study history thoroughly and see who has done that the most.

      February 22, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • LALawrence

      You're right Steve, they have assimilated well, learning the ways of those who stole them from Africa. Great Observation

      February 22, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
      • Furnatic

        First off, learn to read history. Most warring tribes sold those who were captured during war to the white men who set up camp in Africa. Its wasn't like some Planet of the Apes (No pun intended. This isn't ESPN, who I still think over-reacted) scenario where a bunch of white dudes were throwing nets on black people and such.
        Second, I do support Black History month, to a point. I think its great and all to learn our history so we don't repeat our mistakes, but what does bug me is the fact even if everyone says were equal, the people who are still segregated are those who are segregating themselves. You know exactly who I'm talking about. The guys who walk about saying they're celebrating their African heritage. Chances are, if your family were owned at some point, your are already integrated enough to not be even acknowledged as an African. YOU ARE AMERICAN. Black or white, YOU ARE AMERICAN.

        February 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
      • maff

        furnastic probably complained about the african american history section of the library too. Is that segregation? or is that filling in the gaps of exclusion without rewriting the american history books on the shelf already?

        February 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Roman

      That's an egregiously unfair assessment. Stealing and raping are not traits of African Americans exclusively, nor is destroying cities. Whites have raped and pillaged entire countries in history and raped, killed and disenfranchised Native Americans way before any African's foot touched American soil. And they still do. White people live in Detroit, Los Angeles, New York and every other metropolitan city. I feel like when people make these accusations, they forget that the only reason there is a group of African Americans is because of the agreements that Caucasian Americans made with Africans to bring slaves here. We all had a hand in the creation and deterioration of our country and we can all make it better.

      February 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
      • maff

        keep speaking the truth my brotha!

        February 22, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • True to self

      We all can agree..Steve's a pinhead!

      February 23, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Stacey

      ARE U INSANE!!!! Black people have played an enormous role in history!

      March 22, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  3. 2012 Supporter

    Excellent Opportunity for all Americans to learn about other cultures.
    Who they are, What are their rcontributions, Where they came Why they exsist,When will we all learn
    that we are each others Keeper.. Love One Another.

    February 22, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • NOvember 2012

      perhaps they will show an exhibit of the Cook Country jail in Chicago...after all there was a huge issue with racisim and prisoner mistreatment...

      February 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  4. John

    So, when will the white history museum be created? Isn't the creation of museums based on race racist? Shouldn't we all have one large museum instead of segregating history into categories of race? Morgan Freeman recently said something on this matter on how black history is American history. Why do we need this?

    February 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • maff

      When i was in school we learned white history and visited white history museums. They just were'nt named white because it was implied.

      February 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Sean

      that would have to be one humongous museum to fit every cultures contributions into it, besides pretty much every museum thats not specifically "Black", "Native American" etc... history is overwhelmingly "White" history, just like television, music, movies, so whites dont need those things made specifically to acknowledge their culture its already there and all around them

      February 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Anvil of Reality

      It's called Walmart.

      February 22, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  5. ...a laurel and hardy handshake.......

    ...and this museum, Ollie, will present exhibits that pertain to OUR CURRENT PRESIDENT, PRESIDENT BARAK H. OBAMA.
    Yes Stan, and when Rick Santorum visits the museum, HE MAY KEEP HIS SHOES ON.

    February 22, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  6. NOvember 2012

    what about the hispanics? After all there are more of them in America..and the asians...why waist your time on the 10% black population who underperforms every other ethnic group in America? Just don't make sense...unless you would like to divide America.

    February 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Steveo

      I'm black and have a Master's Degree and will go head to head with you any day! Now in saying that stop lumping everybody together. We are individuals! And just for the heck of it...the word you were searching for was waste and NOT waist!

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

      comments like that just go to show that america is already divided. The divide is in your mind. And until your able to say something of value, even in forums where you have no accountability, you will continue to contribute to the divide.

      February 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
      • Steveo

        Well said!

        February 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  7. Roman

    Well, it will be interesting to see what type of fallout will come from this. As an African American male, I realize everything that says African American on it can come with a level of positivity and negativity. My only hope is that this museum, much like the Smithsonian, can educate people about the history of African Americans without stirring up any unnecessary controversies.

    February 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • maff

      As you can see it already has. with less than 20 comments, about half are negative. What they dont realize is that we didnt immigrate to this country. Our history is a wash. The history of the black race was wiped out just like the natives to this land were wiped out. Can you complain about native american reserves? why complain about a black history museum? Do you know how hard it is to find black history? black history is still being discovered. Unfortunately we will never be able to trace our history back to before we were slave traded.
      I agree there should be a musuem for all races and cultures. On day, when our history book reflect the complete american history, maybe we will have a museum to do the same

      February 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  8. maff

    Furnastic. What does that history lesson teach us? American history does not include us. We dont know where we came from. whether or not my ancestors were sold by africans to americas, we will never know because we have no history. The little history that there is will be on display in this museum. How is that segregation? the history books are segregated... are they not? I grew up thinking that my history began at slavery, and inbetween there was F. Douglas and MLK...and thats it. The only black men in my history book was fredrick douglas and MLK.
    Why is there black history month? so people dont grow up the way i did...no history. Black history is more about educating our people on our history because we were deprived of it. There are plenty of museums full of white people. Wny not make one full of all the african americans those white museums and history books left out? Its not segregation, its education.

    February 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  9. linda

    Based on down right stupid coments made, it only support the need for an separate museum, top depict the great contributions made african americans . Because at the end of the we all need to remember this "OUR" COUNTRY TOO!

    February 22, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • maff

      right on!

      February 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  10. Joey

    The Smithsonian is a great place to visit, a day simply isn't enough time to see it. You really need almost a week to see everything they have there.

    February 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  11. BooYah

    I can't wait to take a stroll through the Colt 45 wing.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  12. Brennan

    I thought we were broke? So is China paying for our new museum?

    February 22, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
  13. sickofitinca

    Where did we get the money for this new museum? Don't look in your pocket, it was already picked by our friends in Washington.

    February 22, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
  14. Jaso

    Don't worry Steve and "November 2012" (nice way to hide by the way) the day will come when your people, efficient and thorough as they are, will come with the solution to America's race (read black) problem. To what purpose historically have museums been built by a conquesting people? To commemorate the vanquished. To preserve the relics and representations of a yester year for posterity. It could ALSO be said that it's a crime scene preserved for the same purposes of posterity. As if in some perverted way they want to include future generations in to witness the decimation.

    February 23, 2012 at 5:49 am |
  15. daris

    I see it is so needed from some of the comment stated here. From the. Cotten gin to the cell phone and everything in between you really need to know who's doing what.

    February 23, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  16. David

    Let see, crack pipes, check, raping, check, sagging pants, check, hat sideways, check, welfare, check, slums, check, jail time, check. Did I miss something? Oh, abortion, check.

    February 23, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Steveo

      Your attempt to lump everybody is pathethic.

      Hitler, Dahmer, McVeigh, Jim Jones, Stalin, Lenin, the Boston Strangler, Jack the Ripper, Al Capone to name a few were all mass murderers. None of them black! One of the poorest regions in this country is Appalachia. You would be hard pressed to find a black face anywhere in Appalachia!

      Every community has issues and problems! Every community! Stop the mass labeling! It makes you look really bad and unlearned! Check!

      February 23, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  17. daris

    First crack was develop but a white man who wanted cheaper cocainen welfare was set up for black people and we're the one receiving most of the funding there either slums are a products of european and do I need to go on check your facts before you start with your hatred of a race of people. Where would you ?

    February 23, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  18. daris

    First crack was develop but a white man who wanted cheaper cocaine welfare was set up for black people and we're the one receiving most of the funding there either slums are a products of european and do I need to go on check your facts before you start with your hatred of a race of people. Where would you without the instrument developed by a black for surgery,the third rail in the subway, the fuel to take you out to space just to name a few check that

    February 23, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  19. Steveo

    I do wish a seperate museum was not neccessary! I wish we were at a place where there was no need for a Black History month! I wish we were at a place where Black history was celebrated as American history! We are not at that place because ignorance and intolerance still abounds. Don't believe me? Just ask David, Steve and NOvember 2012!

    February 23, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  20. True to self

    I will formally complain on how this moderator will allow rightwing hateful retoric but screen an african americans response to these rightwingers.. I thought these moderators were non racist.. I guess not.

    February 23, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  21. maff

    yeah. its a shame isnt it. stereotypes are vicious. People actually believe them. Sad thing is that some of the stereotyped embrace the stereotype and in doing so perpetuate it. But what people dont understand is that when you stereotype based on race, you become a sterotype yourself. The negative comments used to inaccurately paint blacks as " this or that" will only be read by black people who will then accurately stereotype you as a racist. However, since you have no face online, most might assume your white, and that feeds into the inaccurate stereotype that blacks may have for whites...assuming your all racist and hate blacks... when this is certainly not the case.
    ignorance perpetuates ignorance. Racism perpetuates racism.
    Todays lesson is that when you stereotype someone, you are ultimately no better than those you attempt to stereotype, as you have also become stereotypical.

    February 23, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Jaso

      Tip of the hat to Maff. Well said, well said.

      February 23, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Jaso

      One thing more needs saying and that is whenever we have any topic of conversation involving ANYthing remotely of race we have these closet racists come out of the closet spewing their undercover hate. If these people really feel this way they should not hold it in, they're only hurting themselves, bitterness left within does undue damage to the human mind and body (that might explain why a lot of them sound like raving lunatics). They should spew their worldview wherever they are; go up to a person of color and tell them how you feel. The world is waiting to hear them wax poetic about their obsession. But I have half a mind to disbelieve these race baiters they're not serious with their belief, they're just, like many journalists who do the same, trying to stir the pot & get people excited. These groups of master baiters get off by spewing their disease collectively and it's up to us if we want to give them a public showcase or not.

      February 23, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  22. 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 5:48 pm |
    • Steveo

      well, The answer to your second question would be ..NATIVE AMERICANS!
      The answer to your first question is most museums already exhibit European culture!

      February 28, 2012 at 5:55 pm |