African American Museum

Episode 1 of 1

It was an emotional affair as the Smithsonian's African American Museum of History and Culture finally opened to the public on September 24, 2016. President Obama gave a lengthy heart-felt speech praising the long fought for and long awaited space that has been 100 years in the making. Countless celebrities including Oprah, Will Smith, and Angela Basset christened the building with inspirational words. Patti Labelle and Stevie Wonder came to mesmerize the crowd with beautiful performances. The film's host, former WNBC-TV Anchor and Correspondent Carol Jenkins, also speaks to several key players who were instrumental in taking the museum from conception to reality. Early in the film, viewers will hear from Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the museum. He talks about the racism he faced as a child, which led him to pursue a career as a historian. Bunch tells Jenkins that it is his hope that the African American Museum of History and Culture becomes a place that sparks conversation about racism in America and is a catalyst for healing and reconciliation. This special also pays special attention to one of the most fascinating details of the museum: the actual building itself. Dr. Mabel Wilson, Professor of Architecture and African American Studies at Columbia University and one of few black women who is tenured in the field of architecture, sits down with Jenkins to discuss her authorized book on the museum titled Begin With The Past. She explains the important details of the building's facade-a "beautiful bronze colored, three tiered lantern." According to Wilson, it's meant to invoke the craft of cast iron railings and gates that black craftspeople, both freed and enslaved, created in many parts of the south. The building's three-tiered design, fashioned by renowned British Ghanaian Architect David Adjaye, was modeled after wooden sculptures found in Yoruba shrines in Nigeria. This film also touches on the placement of the museum on the National Mall. This is symbolic to the African American experience throughout our history - from early slave auctions in the area, the March On Washington For Jobs and Freedom in 1963, the Million Man March in 1995, and the inauguration of the first African American president in 2009. The film also takes you inside the museum to see precious items like Michael Jackson's performance wear, James Baldwin's passport, and collectibles from several other contemporary artists including Whitney Houston and En Vogue. Overall, this special captures the details, ingenuity, and the history surrounding the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. Viewers will learn more about what went into creating the space that some are calling a gift to the country and a dream come true.

Previously Aired

Day
Time
Channel
2/27/2017
noon
8/7/2018
2 p.m.
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