tv National Museum of African American History and Culture Ceremony CSPAN November 26, 2015 12:41pm-1:51pm EST
>> thank you. >> you're watching american history tv. all weekend every weekend, on c-span 3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook, at c-span history. >> to innothing grate the one-year countdown to the grand opening of the museum of african-american history and culture the museum hosted an evening of music and speeches that culminated in historic imagery on the building's exterior walls and repeated over two succeeding nights. the museum on the national mall within sight of the national monument and white house. c-span's american history tv was there as founding director lonnie bunch introduced the museum's major themes. this is about an hour and 15 minutes. >> welcome all to this special commemoration and celebration of freedom. on february 22nd, 2012,
president barack obama, former first lady laura bush, congressman john lewis, governor sam brownbeck, mayor vincent gray, the smithsonian and the museum's leadership, broke ground right here on this spot for this museum, the national museum of african-american history and culture. today, as you can see the building is nearing completion, and in the next ten months, we'll finish the interior, install the exhibits, and by september 2016, open the doors to welcome the public. today, we mark a milestone in our progress by commemorating three, three annual anniversaries -- the 150th anniversary of the end of the civil war and the ratification of the constitution's 13th amendment ending slavery, and also, the 50th anniversary of
the voting rights act. these are signal events in american history and help define who we are as a freedom-seeking people. now you can read about them in a book and we certainly want people to read books, but the way we as a country publicly commemorate and celebrate our major national milestones and encourage their widespread understanding, is evident here on the national mall in our national monuments, memorials, and museums. now sometimes african-american history, culture, experience and perspective has been forgotten or ignored on this national mall, the slave pens and auction markets of the 19th century, for example, but this mall has also hosted those moments when the national thirst for freedom trumped racism, prejudice, and
intolerance. singing on the steps of the lincoln memorial, for example. our national museum's, too, reflect this mixed history, the smithsonian castle was built with sand stone quarried by enslaved workers. the first head of the smithsonian would not let frederick douglas speak at the smithsonian. through the late 1940s, curators refused to accept important african-american items into the collections like a medal of honor awarded to an african-american civil war hero. and even decades ago, the idea of a museum documenting the african-american experience was killed in congress. yet, now, portraits of accomplished african-americans now grace our national portrait gallery and last night, aretha
franklin sang there with tremendous grace. and exhibits in the american history museum like the greensboro lunch counter helped tell the story of the civil rights movement and now we have this museum arisen on the mall, certainly to broaden the historical record, but also to ensure that the stories and accomplishments of today and tomorrow, will be told, providing insight and inspiring our national conscious into the future. building this museum takes a huge effort. we're grateful to the american people, the leadership of presidents bush and obama, the u.s. congress, the museum's council, lead donors and literally tens of thousands of contributors. we recognize the support of the district of columbia and, of course, our staff. we recognize the designers david agi, max freeland, and the workers that built this museum. it's lonnie bunch, the director, who's lived this museum every
minute of every day over the past decade and he's poured his mind, spirit and soul into it. he's hired and led a talented staff, raised the money, developed the program, and acquired over 30,000 art facts and artworks, including that dress that marian anderson wore easter sunday afternoon at the lincoln memorial. beyond the museum, thousands from across the smithsonian and the regions, engineers, contract officers, curators and conserve tors have lent their hand to raise up this museum. leading that effort, is david scoreton, the secretary of the smithsonian. david's connection to the museum ideals goes back long and deep and was recently celebrated at his installation ceremony when his friend, jazz great winston mar sal less, joyously played
another one of those museum's great treasures, lonnie bunch and his staff took that trumpet of louis armstrong and had him play it to show that this culture, this culture, is very much alive in our nation's capital. please welcome the smithsonian secretary, david scoreton. [ applause ] >> thank you, richard, and welcome everyone and good evening. welcome to a proud new chapter, not only for the smithsonian, but most importantly, a proud new chapter in the history of this country. i'm so honored to be here with you to sees the birth of this museum, this shimmering bronze monument to the struggles and sacrifices of so many comes
closer to revealing its heart and soul to the american people and to visitors from around the world. this museum will shed light on the stories that belong to the ages -- simple, complex, powerful, poignant stories -- stories of the enslaved whose shackles could not break their spirit and of the visionaries who were defined by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. enduring stories of contributions to history, art, the sciences, and culture. these are the stories of the african-american experience, yes, but they also expand the american story and each one of us benefits. when this museum opens just a few short months from now,
director lonnie bunch and his dedicated and very talent staff, will breathe life into that story with exhibitions, be sim pose ya, programming and collections and these collections will be like no other in the world. tonight, that story will be illuminated on the corona of this beautiful building, larger than life, for all the world to begin to see. thank you for joining us today to experience thetestory tellin power of this majestic new museum. thank you. story telling power of this majestic new museum. thank you. >> please welcome to the stage the mayor of the district of columbia the honorable mural bowser. sp >> well, good evening, everybody. i am so proud and happy to be here and i want to thank the
secretary and everybody at the smithsonian, director bunch, congratulations, we're moving yet another step closer to being able to see the to see the rich history alive and well in this building in washington, d.c., our nation's capital. >> i want to thank all the people who have supported and worked and had businesses that made this building behind us possible. and i'm so looking forward -- it's opening its doors. we'll be able to know about the history and struggle the african-american people. i know i'm biased. i get to represent 660,000 people who call d.c. home. but i can think of no more perfect place for this museum. for more than two centuries, washington has played a pivotal role in the story of
african-american people. serving as a national stage to our struggle and to our progress. but less told is the history beyond this green wall and of these federal buildings. washington has deep and rich african-american roots. tonight, we stand in the shadow of buildings largely constructed by slaves who labored and lived right here in the district. in fact, washington slaves were among the first in the nation to be freed. and because our laws did not require the newly freed to leave the city, many stayed and our population swelled. raising their families in neighborhoods, real neighborhoods all across washington. they became clerks and teachers and bus drivers and doctors and academics. they built the city we now call home.
and by the mid 20th century, d.c. was the first predominantly black city in the united states. some of our most significant leaders in the civil rights movement from marian barry and eleanor holmes noorton made their marks here. and today, that torch continues to be carried by leaders who want to commit to making sure that our nation provides every opportunity to every american willing to work hard for it. our city is a political town. but we're far more than the congress in the white house. we are a city of music and culture and great diversity. many of you will remember when u street was known as black broadway. i don't. but i am grateful -- i don't.
that that history will be preserved here. th is a city where duke ellington and others got their starts. where people came to really celebrate the history of african-americans. we put washington on the map of african-american higher education, as well. >> like communities across the country, african-americans in d.c. faced our share of segregation and discrimination throughout the decades. and much like other communities, we persevered. we're building a strong middle class and we contribute to the economic growth, vibrancy and political life of our nation's
capital. today, the african-american story is our nation's story. we have experienced tremendous but on even progress. there are wide gaps in economic conditions in education and in health. i'm committed to closing those gaps so all of our residents regardless of background can reach their full potential. my family has been in this town for five generations. ask as i like to say, we're not going anywhere. we have been witnessed, we have participated in the growth of this city. when the doors open, i can't wait to bring generations of washingtonians to celebrate that history. to remember our struggle and progress, and recognize our story is not yet complete.
on behalf of all of us in washington, d.c., our great neighborhoods and dare i speak for future washingtonians and the visitors that will come to their national mall to celebrate the great american history that they'll do so right here. >> please welcome the intrepid founding director of the smithsonian national museum of african-american history and culture, lonnie bunch. >> oh, please, thank you. thank you. i'm just some guy from jersey. i'm not sure what intrepid means.
i want to welcome you to the very first event at the national museum of african-american history and culture. let me say it one more time. the very first event. it's been a long wait. and ten years ago we began this journey with a staff of two. we had no idea where the building would be. no collections and no money. ten years ago all we had was a dream. but tonight, we celebrate the realization of that dream. we are not at the promise land yet, but we're close. tonight we commemorate the importance, the power and the meaning of freedom. a term that was made real only
to those to whom freedom was denied. the importance of freedom and the need to struggle to help america live up to its stated ideals is captured in a song by my dear friend, bernice johnson regan. i'm not going to sing, so don't worry. she wrote, we who believe in freedom will not rest. we who believe in freedom will not rest until it comes. so tonight, we honor three moments where freedom came. not as a gift, but as a result of sacrifice and struggle. we remember the 150th anniversary of the end of the civil war. a war that was a watershed that ushered in a new world of possibility. and we remember the ratification of the 13th amendment. an amendment consisting of only a few words.
marked a struggle of freed and enslaved people, to end what historians call america's original sin, the sin of slavery. and we acknowledge very proudly the 50th anniversary of the voting rights act. that vital tool of democracy and freedom. we're also here to celebrate the completion of so much of the construction of this building. i'm proud to say this is the first green museum on the mall. yeah, i'm really pleased with that. and distinctive corona is comprised of a filigree inspired by the enslaved crafts people that created all that work in charleston and new orleans. in a way this building has a
simple message. this building is a homage to the fact that so much of our history is hidden in plain sight. and we want to celebrate so much of that history. and candidly, we're here tonight because of the support and generosity of so many of you. obviously the counsel, people who have been with us for more than a decade who have given their time and support to make this work. and i want to thank all the donors, the donors that have given millions of dollars and the donors that have reached into their pocket and given us a little bit of change. because we are here because all of you care. and i especially want to acknowledge our largest donor, the congress of the united states. been very supportive of what we do. and i would be remiss if i didn't thank the smithsonian board of regents, richard kiran, and the smithsonian family who have rallied around this. but i must admit, i hold a special affection for the staff
of the national museum of african-american history and culture. thank you. their grace, their commitment, their ability to work and put themselves second is a key reason why we're here tonight. and i want to thank all of my staff, and i want to thank those who worked so hard to make tonight happen. especially tasha coleman. and derek ross. they're so crucial to this. and as we look at this building, i can't help but think and marvel at the architectural creativity of the smith group. the architects that made this vision real. and i have to be honest, i have
to always acknowledge john lewis. who fought so hard to make this country right and to make this museum real. so thank you, congressman. and my family thanks you because i needed the job. so i appreciate that. we are at this moment, because we're standing on the shoulders of those who paved the way. tonight, we are so fortunate to have in attendance, some of the pioneers of the african-american museum field. because at a time like this, i think of john canard who fought battles at the smithsonian so i wouldn't have to. who made the smithsonian so much better. and i think of people like charles wright and joan maynard, and people who meant so much to me and the fact that we've lost so many. recently, lost rowena steward and paul steward.
some of the greatest leaders in this field. i think i can say candidly that without those who built those museums, there would be no national museum of african-american history and culture. and i know that some of my colleagues from the museum feel they're here. so if you could rise and let us recognize you. those who are with the african-american museum field. thank you all. so we are at this moment because of frederick douglas and harriet tubman. because of ida b. wells. emma till and maybee till mobley and langston hughes. and we're here because of the courage and the sacrifice of a james chaney, of an andrew goodman, michael swarner. and we're here because of the belief and vision of martin
luther king and an ella baker. but we're also at this moment because there were amazing historians who paved the way. we're here because of latisha brown who taught and helped us understand the history of black d.c. and benjamin quarrels and john hope franklin. the people that helped shape us. but we're also here because there's so many people whose names didn't make the history books. we're here because of the enslaved who believed in a better day when they shouldn't have believed. we're here because of families that left the south for the south side of chicago to demand freedom and fairness. we're here because of students who left brandeis university to go south to help with voter registration. and we're here, quite candidly, because of generations of black teachers who refuse despite textbooks and segregated schools to let their students accept
society's notions of their inferiority. we celebrate the power of memory. after all, there is nothing more powerful than a people, than a nation steeped in its history and there are few things as noble as honoring all of our ancestors by remembering. so tonight, let us remember. thank you. >> thank you. as you know, we're here to commemorate and celebrate freedom. and thinking about all that was shed on that journey, we think about many people who risked it all for us. so it's humbling and beautiful to have the honor to bring up to the podium, a person who lived and fought the journey through
the '60s and helped write that history. ladies and gentlemen, our congressional delegate to the united states congress from the district of columbia, the honorable eleanor holmes noorton. >> thank you. thank you so much for that gracious introduction. is before i say my few minutes of remarks, i must say lonnie bunch, that when it comes to building an institution, it is seldom that we have the whole package in one person. and lonnie bunch, we had the vision from the inside. in lonie bunch, we had the
professionalism to build this museum from the outside. lonnie bunch, you have made history by being the entire package that has built this institution. lonnie told me for years he wanted d.c. residents to be the first americans to come to the site of this new national museum of african-american history. and culture. ever the visionary. more than the location of the museum in our city, lonnie understands that the district itself is a crucible of african-american history.
the district of columbia is one of the nation's oldest cities created deliberately by the framers as a southern city where slaves could be bought. and sold. my great grandfather richard holmes was a run away slave from a virginia plantation. the framers did not foresee that african-american slaves would make history here. when congress passed legislation to free district of columbia slaves almost a year before the emancipation proclamation freed slaves throughout the nation. and in 2003, when we authorized
the national american history and culture act. and john and i as co-sponsors will tell you. i think it took us ten years to get that bill through the congress. as we looked ahead, we certainly did not foresee that the museum would actually open during the 150 -year commemoration of the civil war years. we just didn't know when to envision. yet here we are with a museum about to open on the
ratification of the 13th amendment. the most important amendment since the constitution was ratified began 5 years of unique constitutional history that also produced the 14th and 15th amendment. >> we are at a year packed with historic symbolism of our own. on the anniversary of the voting rights act. lonnie, we want to come here when congress reenacts the voting rights act to make more history. this museum represents not only
a monumental achievement on time to make history of its own 150 years after the passage of the 13th amendment. the museum gives life to the dream denied when african-american civil war veterans were unable to march in the parade commemorating the end of the civil war. as a museum of african-american history and culture, this museum is destined to celebrate history in the process of being made. not yet recorded as a historical fact but as inevitable as the 13th amendment is our pending bill to make the district of columbia the 51st state.
♪ ♪ >> on these historic grounds, freedom is what we celebrate. it's what brought us here together. tonight's guests. but knowing there could have never been this freedom without those who came before. and because no mountain top can ever be appreciated truly without recalling the road endured to get here. 2015 is a very special
anniversary year when we choose to recognize three important markers along that road to freedom. from words of frederick douglass, william lloyd garrison from a letter from a formally enslaved man searching for his family after the war to voting rights activist ella baker and market walker. to an original music composition the ratification in 1865, which officially set the enslaved free. and the voting rights act of 1965 which ensured for all our right to vote. please, welcome our readers joan
mohulland, and cameron grace gamble. for margaret walkers, for my people. for my people everywhere singing their songs repeatedly. praying their prayers nightly. bending their knees humbly to an unseen power. >> when the dark and vengeful spirit of slavery always ambitious preferring to rule in hell than to serve in heaven fired the southern heart.
>> by frederick douglass, a reflection on the american civil war. >> and the armies of a gigantic rebellion came forth with broad bleeds and bloody hands. unknown braves who flung themselves into the yawning chasm where cannon roared and bullets whistled and they fought and fell. for my people lending their strength to the years, to the gone years and the now years and the maybe years. washing, ironing, cooking, scrubbing, sewing, mending, plowing, digging, planting, pruning, patching, dragging along, never gaining, never reaping, never knowing and never understanding. >> enslave the liberty of but one human being and the liberties of the world are put in peril.
>> i am aware that many object to the severity of my language. is there not cause for severity? i will be as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as justice. on this subject, i do not wish to think or speak or write with moderation. no, no, no, i am an earnest, i will not equivocate, i will not excuse, i will not retreat a single inch! and i will be heard. >> the 13th amendment to the united states constitution. i quote. neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where the parties shall have been duly convicted shall exist in the united states or any place subject to their jurisdiction. december 18th, 1865.
>> thank you. >> for the cramped belilderred years, we went to school to know the reasons why and the people who and the places where and the days. >> my name is hawkin wilson. it has been 24 years since i was sold at auction and separated from my family. i have no other one to apply to but you. and then persuaded that you will help one who stands in need of your services as i do. >> in memory of the bitter hours, when he discovered we recall black and poor and small and different and nobody cared. and nobody wondered. and nobody understood.
>> dear sister jane, this is your little brother hawkins trying to find out where you are and where my poor old mother is. i have had a rugged road to travel since we were parted from each other 24 years. but i am writing to you tonight with my bible in my hand praying almighty god to bless you and preserve you and me. to meet again. >> when it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful and terrible thing needful to man as air, usable as earth when it belongs at last to
all, when it is truly instinct, brain matter, reflex action, when it is finally one, when it is more than the gaudy mumbojumbo of politicians, this man, this douglass, this former slave, this negro beaten to his knees exiled, visioning a world where none is lonely, none hunted, none alien. this man superb in love and logic. this man shall be remembered. not with statues, not with poets and wreaths, but with the lives. with the lives grown out of his life. the lives fleshing his dream of
the beautiful, needful thing. sonnet by robert hayden on the life of frederick douglass. >> but 100 years later. >> for my people throng in 47th street in chicago and lennox avenue, new york. >> we that believe in freedom cannot rest. >> for my play mates in the clay and sand and dust of alabama. >> we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes. >> civil rights activist ella baker. >> until the killing of black men, black mothers' sons is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers' sons. >> we who believe in freedom cannot rest. >> for the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things. >> for my people, my people. >> to be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and play and drink their wine and religion.
>> for my people. >> that this act shall be known as the voting rights act of 1965. >> no voting qualification or prerequisite to voting shall be imposed or implied. >> to deny or abridge. >> the right of any citizen of the united states to vote on account of race or color. >> thank you. >> for my people standing, staring, trying to fashion a better way from confusion from hypocrisy and misunderstanding. trying to fashion a world that could hold all the people, all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless generations. >> let a new earth rise. >> let another world be born. >> let a bloody piece be written in the sky. >> let a second generation full of courage issue forth. >> let a people loving freedom come to growth.
and we're just here to remind you that together we stand, united we stand. and if you keep on standing, this is what's going to happen. sngts ♪ ♪ what do you do when you've done all you can ♪ ♪ seems like it's never enough ♪ and what do you say when your friends turn away ♪ ♪ and you're alone tell me ♪ ♪ what do you give when you've given your all ♪ ♪ seems like you can't make it through ♪
♪ well, you just stand when there's nothing left to do ♪ ♪ after you've done all you can ♪ ♪ how do you hand over the guilt of your past ♪ ♪ tell me how do you deal with the same ♪ ♪ oh, tell me how can you smile when your heart has been broken ♪ ♪ tell me what do you give ♪ when you've given your all
♪ and it seems like you can't make it through ♪ ♪ well you just stand when there's nothing left to do ♪ ♪ and once the lord sees you through ♪ ♪ tell them you just stand ♪ stand and be sure ♪ you just stand and endure ♪ because god has a purpose oh, yes god has a plan ♪ ♪ tell me what you've done all you can ♪ ♪ and it seems -- it seems
like you can't make it through ♪ ♪ well you just stand ♪ stand ♪ you just stand ♪ don't worry about a thing ♪ hold your head up high ♪ you go through the storm ♪ you stand through the rain ♪ through the hurt and you stand through the pain ♪ ♪ oh, you just hold on ♪ and don't give up ♪ stand ♪ stand on his word stand on his word ♪ ♪ i'm never going to give in i'm never ever give up ♪ ♪ i'm going to stand on his word ♪ ♪ so remember after you've gone through the pain ♪ ♪ after you've done all you
can ♪ ♪ this life sometimes brings us pain ♪ ♪ you've prayed and prayed ♪ after every tear, every tear that's left to rise is what you do ♪ ♪ you just wait on him ♪ because he's gonna come through ♪ ♪ he's gonna come through ♪ yes, he is ♪ after you've done all you can do ♪ ♪ after you've done all you can ♪ ♪ after you've done all you can ♪ ♪ you've got to stand
♪ amen [ cheers and applause ] >> i don't know if this thing is still working. thank you so much for coming out to remember and to recognize -- this has been magnificent. make sure you tell your friends tomorrow night and wednesday night 5:30 to 9:00. that extraordinary, extraordinary, extraordinary film is going to be shown right here. so please, let everybody know. with a final word, lonnie bunch. >> well, thank you all so much for coming. i have to be honest that i just can't wait to welcome you to the inside of this building in the
fall of 2016. when we open the building next year, this museum belongs to the world. but tonight, it belongs to washington, d.c. so thank you all for coming, good night. >> you're watching american history tv. 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span 3. follow us on twitte twitter @c-spanhistory for information on our schedule. and to keep up with the latest history news. >> up next on "american history tv," thomas tutor, president of the society of the honor guard, tomb of the unknown soldier talks about the history of arlington national cemetery and the tomb of the unknowns. mr. tutor describes how confederate general robert e. lee's mansion became a burial ground during the civil war.
he also discusses the role and creation of the tomb guard and tells stories about some of the notable people who are interred. this event is a little over 90 minutes. [ cheers and applause ] first of all, thank you, lee, for the invitation. and thank you jessica jones for doing the -- a lot of the legwork, of getting it organized and put together. the society of the honor guard, tomb of the unknown soldier, is very much like an alumni association of former tomb guards. we have guys in their 90s, we have guys in active duty and females in our society. who have guarded the tomb, because the tomb was guarded first in 1995, by corporal heather johnson, the first female to walk the mat in