Connect with UPR:
The Two-Way
12:00 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

'A Long Time Coming,' Obama Says Of African-American Museum

A museum first proposed in 1915 by black veterans from the Civil War is finally, officially, under construction on the National Mall in Washington.

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, joined by veterans of the civil rights movement, lawmakers, entertainers and former first lady Laura Bush, earlier today were on hand at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture.

If all goes as planned, the $500 million facility (half the cost is coming from the federal government, the other half from fundraising), will open in 2015.

According to The Washington Post, the museum's design will set it apart in a setting, near the Washington Monument, that's "known largely for its neoclassical landscape." It will be "sheathed in bronze-colored panels rather than granite, marble or limestone." And:

"This museum eschews the influence of Western civilization, instead choosing to focus on West Africa and the rich culture of the ancient Yoruba tribe there. They're a people known for their exquisite bronze and metal sculptural art — and for their role in the African diaspora in the Americas."

The museum's construction, said Obama, makes him think about his daughters and the "millions of visitors who will stand where we stand long after we're gone" and what they will experience and take away.

"When our children look at Harriet Tubman's shawl or Nat Turner's Bible or the plane flown by Tuskegee Airmen, I don't want them to be seen as figures somehow larger than life," Obama said. "I want them to see how ordinary Americans could do extraordinary things. How men and women just like them had the courage and determination to right a wrong."

"This day has been a long time coming," Obama added during today's ceremony.

The Post has a graphic here with more about the museum.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.