In 1915, a group of black veterans of the U.S. Civil War began to push for a memorial dedicated to black soldiers and servicemembers. In September 2016—more than a century later—that museum finally opened. Along the way, the National Museum of African American History And Culture faced roadblock after roadblock: Representative Leonidas C. Dyer introduced a bill that called for a commission to begin the project in 1916, then drafted another bill in 1919 proposing to erect the monument in the capital. Neither effort succeeded in getting funds. In 1929, legislation was passed to create the kind of commission Representative Dyer had proposed, but funding was even harder to come by in the Depression-era economy and the project was again put on hold. It wasn't until 1986 that Congress took up the topic again and passed a joint resolution supporting private efforts to build the museum, but politics soon impeded that effort as well. Finally, in 2003, Congress Passed the National Museum of African American History And Culture Act and got the ball rolling on its construction.
The 400,000-square-foot Washington D.C. museum broke ground in 2012 as a three-tiered, bronze-colored building in a sea of white marble monuments. It opened to the public on September 24, 2016. Today, the museum showcases more than 35,000 artifacts and gives visitors a place to reflect on the evils of slavery and Jim Crow, explore the history of the Civil Rights movement, and absorb African-American music, dance, and literature. Learn more about the historic nature of this historical monument with the videos below.