The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture opened its doors on Saturday after a special dedication ceremony.
Roland Martin and NewsOne Now were on hand to chronicle the historic moment, and spoke with a number of dignitaries, as well as celebrities, who came from all over the country to experience the venue directly after the dedication ceremony ended.
Lonnie Bunch, the Director of NMAAHC, shared with NewsOne Now the overwhelming feeling he had as a result of the response from the community. He told Martin over 80,000 passes were claimed an hour after they became available.
Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis said he did everything he could to hold back his tears, calling the moment “a very special day.” He later stated the opening of NMAAHC was a “dream come true.”
Former President Bill Clinton told Martin Saturday was “an unbelievable day for America.” He also agreed with a statement our current president made during his address, saying, “This [museum] is for African-Americans, but it will educate all of us and we can all be together.”
Media mogul Oprah Winfrey told NewsOne Now Saturday was a “powerful day” and that the opening of the NMAAHC was “a long time coming.”
Actor Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t wait to get inside to “see what our history is.”
Courtney B. Vance, fresh off of his Emmy win for Best Actor in a Limited Series for his performance as Johnnie Cochran in The People v. O.J. Simpson, said, “Thank God for President Obama, he brought it all together.” He later added, “We’re a complex polyglotten and we’re here and it’s acknowledged in this museum.”
Famed actress Angela Bassett shared her excitement about the opening of the NMAAHC, saying she “could not wait to go through and rest my eyes on every single artifact.”
“It makes me proud,” Bassett continued. “The journey, the struggle, the accomplishments … it fills your heart.”
Singer Dionne Warwick called the opening of the NMAAHC “unbelievable and well long overdue.”
Author and political analyst Michael Eric Dyson drew direct parallels between the history of Africans in America to the present day condition of Black America and said, “Everything that you see in that museum is happening to us now in some form or fashion.”
“If you look at Ida B.Wells-Barnett talking about how our lives should matter, how we should not be subjected to the tyranny of White racist terror — we’re dealing with that now,” opined Dyson. Juxtaposed to his comment regarding Black America’s current condition, he reminded viewers the museum represents the “beauty of expectation, demanding that Black people do their best.”
Dyson continued, “This museum is a mark of permanent history and memory in the midst of the nation’s capital to say to them, ‘It’s not just Black history, this is American history.’”
Cathy Hughes, founder and chair of Radio One, Inc., said it was a “great day for America” and later reflected on the appearances of former President George Bush and President Barack Obama “coming together.” She hoped the imagery of the two presidents “sets the example for the entire country.”
Watch reactions to the grand opening and dedication of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the video clip above. Then watch highlights from the dedication ceremony in the video clip below, featuring remarks from Congressman John Lewis, former President George Bush, President Barack Obama, Lonnie Bunch, and others.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty