2016 Press Releases

National Archives Museum Welcomes African American Museum with Display
Press Release · Thursday, September 22, 2016

Washington, DC

Celebrates opening of National Museum of African American History and Culture

The National Archives Museum celebrates the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) with a special display including a 1927 plan for such a museum, and the 2003 Act of Congress that officially established the Museum. The special display in the National Archives Museum’s East Rotunda Gallery runs through November 9, and is free and open to the public. The National Archives Museum's "Featured Document" exhibit is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation.

A long-awaited museum
The first calls for a memorial recognizing African Americans’ contributions to their country came from black Civil War veterans in 1915. In 1929, Congress passed an act authorizing the creation of a commission to erect a “National Memorial Building” dedicated to the accomplishments of African Americans. The “National Memorial Building," however, was never built because the act failed to fund the building’s construction and the commission was unable to raise the necessary funds in the economic climate of the Great Depression.

Efforts to create a national museum of African American history and culture continued throughout the 20th century. In 2003, 74 years after the initial legislation, Congress passed a law creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum opens to the public on September 24, 2016.

The display includes:

  • 1927 pamphlet showing an early proposed design for an African American memorial museum. National Archives, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives
  • Public Law 108-184 - National Museum of African American History and Culture Act, December 16, 2003, National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government

Related online resources

Related exhibits at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC

  • The Amending America temporary exhibit explores the remarkably American story of how we amended, or attempted to amend, our Constitution in order to form a more perfect union. The exhibit includes petitions, interactives, landmark documents, and political cartoons addressing issues including slavery, civil rights and voting rights. Through September 4, 2017.
  • The Records of Rights permanent exhibit uses original documents, photographs, facsimiles, videos, and interactive exhibits to explore how Americans have worked to realize the ideals of freedom enshrined in our nation’s founding documents. A special section of this exhibit, " Bending toward Justice," showcases the drive for civil rights for African Americans.

Related upcoming programs at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC

  • The 14th Amendment, the National Park Service, and America’s Second Founding, Thursday, September 29, at 7:30 p.m., William G. McGowan Theater & US National Archives YouTube Channel To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the passage of the 14th Amendment, we look at how that amendment defines U.S. citizenship, its connection to America’s "Second Founding" (the passage of the Reconstruction amendments), and the interpretation of these topics at National Park Service sites. More information online.
  • Revolutionary Movements Then and Now: Black Power and Black Lives Matter, Wednesday, October 19, at 7 p.m., William G. McGowan Theater & US National Archives YouTube Channel To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Power movement, Say it Loud!, the African American Employee Affinity Group presents a panel discussion of distinguished guests from revolutionary movements of the past and present. More information online.

The National Archives Museum is located on the National Mall on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, NW. Metro accessible on Yellow or Green lines, Archives/Navy Memorial station. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., daily. Closed December 25. More information on exhibits and programs online.

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For press information contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.

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This page was last reviewed on October 13, 2016.
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