(SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION) – Celebrities including Angela Bassett and singer Patti Labelle appeared at the opening ceremony of the National Museum of African-American History on Saturday (September 24).
U.S. President Barack Obama was the keynote speaker at the lavish ceremony which also featured former Presidents George W. Bush and was attended by an audience of luminaries.
The bronze-colored museum’s showcase sits on Washington’s National Mall, and the 36,000 items in the collection range from trade goods used to buy slaves in Africa to a segregated railway car from the 1920s and a red Cadillac convertible belonging to rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry.
Singer Patti Labelle sang the Sam Cooke classic A Change is Gonna Come, which became a civil rights anthem in the 1960s.
Talk show host Oprah Winfrey and actor Will Smith also spoke at the opening, taking turns reading out quotes from well-known African-American writers and personalities.
The opening of the museum on the Washington D.C., National Mall on Saturday comes at a time of heightened racial tensions in the country, much of it centered around controversy over police killings of African-Americans.