A Museum Opens Following a Century of Effort

The winding road to the building of an African-American history museum

The exterior of the Museum of African American History and Culture as seen during the media preview day on Sept. 14. The newest of the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall opens on Saturday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After numerous challenges and outright opposition, the quest for a national museum documenting the history and cultural contributions of African-Americans has been realized.

Follow the decades of history, full of starts and stops, below:

22museum-timeline-web-011915 - A Civil War veterans group establishes the National Memorial Association for African-American military contributions.

1919 - Congress considers a National Memorial Building.

22museum-timeline-web-021920 - The Commission on Fine Arts recommends museum consideration be postponed until after a World War I memorial is approved.

1929 - On his last day in office, President Calvin Coolidge signs a law authorizing the commission to construct a memorial building. The commission requests $1.6M from unclaimed soldiers’ pay and money lost in the 1872 collapse of Freedman’s Bureau.

22museum-timeline-web-031930 - President Herbert Hoover rejects a funding request amid a worsening Great Depression.

1933-35 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt abandons the commission and rejects further development efforts.

22museum-timeline-web-041968-69 - Following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., bills are introduced in both chambers to pursue a national museum.

22museum-timeline-web-051986 - At the urging of Texas Democratic Rep. Mickey Leland, Congress passes a resolution supporting a museum on the Mall.

1988 - Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis introduces a bill to create a museum within the Smithsonian.

22museum-timeline-web-061991 - A Smithsonian commission recommends a national museum

1992 - The Senate passes a bill by Illinois Democratic Sen. Paul Simon. It lingers in the House.

1993 - Lewis gets a measure to approve the museum through the House. It stalls in the Senate the next year. He and Simon repeatedly push legislation.

22museum-timeline-web-072001 - With the support of Republicans Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Lewis gets approval for a study commission.

2003 - President George W. Bush signs a law authorizing construction of the museum.

2006 - The Smithsonian selects a 5-acre site for museum on the Mall.

22museum-timeline-web-082012 - President Barack Obama presides at the groundbreaking ceremony.

2016 - Obama plans to attend the museum opening Sept. 24.

22museum-timeline-web-09Sources: Smithsonian, CQ BudgetTracker, CQ BillTrack, Library of Congress

Photos by: Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call, House, Carol M. Highsmith/World Telegram & Sun

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