Obama added that he hopes the museum can add context to some current events such as the relationship between law enforcement officials and black communities. There are still ongoing protests around Charlotte, North Carolina, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, where black men have recently been shot by police.
The event was attended by other American leaders. Besides Barack and Michelle Obama, Representative and civil rights fighter John Lewis called it a dream come true. Former President George W. Bush also attended. During his term, Bush signed into law the bill to build a museum dedicated to African-American history and culture.
There were musical performances by Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle, and Denyce Graves. Robert De Niro and Angela Bassett read works by black writers. Celebrities Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith were also in attendance.
One of the highlights of the opening ceremony was the appearance of Ruth Bonners. Bonners, who is 99-years-old, was joined by her seven-year-old granddaughter alongside Barack and Michelle Obama. Bonners is the daughter of a former slave, and her presence gave great meaning to the museum and its purpose.
The Smithsonian African-American museum of History and Culture has eight levels and contains an area of 400,000 square feet. The building reportedly cost upwards of $540 million. It's located close to both the Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument. Both former presidents were slaveholders.
The newest Smithsonian building is unique in its architecture. The museum is surrounded with bronze exterior panels, the patterns inspired by an African wooden column. The building materials are also based on historic nineteenth-century ironworks created by slaves in the South. Sunlight will stream into the structure through patterned openings.