Frank Smith, founding director of the African American Civil War Memorial Museum and co-chair of a D.C. Host Committee, speaks at a Sept. 7 press conference updating the grand-opening events for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Photo by William J. Ford
Frank Smith, founding director of the African American Civil War Memorial Museum and co-chair of a D.C. Host Committee, speaks at a Sept. 7 press conference updating the grand-opening events for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Photo by William J. Ford

With the much-anticipated Sept. 24 grand opening of the only national museum focused on black history and culture approaching, officials said at a news conference Wednesday several events will celebrate its significance before and after its public unveiling.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, a 400,000-square-foot building located near the Washington Monument in northwest D.C., will feature thousands of historical artifacts such as a bowtie and handkerchief owned by Harriett Tubman, a plane operated by the Tuskegee Airmen and a 78-ton Southern railroad car, the museum’s largest relic.

“This is a national monument,” said Frank Smith, founding director of the African American Civil War Memorial Museum in Northwest, where the press conference took place. “It will raise the profile of the contributions African-Americans have made in this country.”

John W. Franklin, senior manager with the Smithsonian Institution in southwest D.C., said 100,000 people are anticipated to attend the grand opening with at least 3½ million visitors annually. The museum will be under the auspices of the Smithsonian.

Franklin’s grandfather, Buck Colbert Franklin, will be featured in the museum’s history as part of a group who aided survivors of a race riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921.

“This is a huge event,” Franklin said. “We are going to be open every day, except Dec. 25. Everybody doesn’t have to come on the 24th.”

Several events will take place to honor the museum, including:

  • Sept. 18 – A musical program that will feature a 200-member choir at Shiloh Baptist Church in Northwest;
  • Sept. 22 – Ceremony and reception sponsored by Sigma Gamma Rho sorority with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser as the host; and
  • Sept. 25 – A drum circle with 200 people at Malcolm X Park in Northwest.

For those who aren’t able to attend the official grand opening, Smith said watch parties will take place throughout the D.C. area and the country.

“We are very excited to be a part of this and making this a huge festivity for Washington, D.C.,” said Beth Akiyama, executive director in the national affairs office in Church of Scientology in Northwest. “We have many African Americans in our church. We also believe very strongly that Black history is everyone’s history.”

According to museum description, Congress provided half of the $500 million to construct the museum. Several companies recently donated and contributed $10 million, but officials need more.

A fundraiser will be held Wednesday evening at the African American Civil War Memorial Museum.

For more information on the museum, go to www.nmaahc.si.edu. To review a list of the various events, go to dchost.org.

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