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Smithsonian breaks ground on African American History Museum

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The Smithsonian broke ground on the National Museum of African American History and Culture Wednesday – capping off a years-long process with a ceremony at the corner of 14th street and Constitution avenue. The 380,000-square-foot museum will sit on a five-acre site near the Washington Monument and will cost about $500 million to build.

“With this groundbreaking we move closer toward creating a museum to make manifest the dreams of many generations,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the museum.

The museum was created in 2003 by an Act of Congress, establishing it as part of the Smithsonian Institution. It is expected to be finished in 2015 and will be LEED Gold certified.

President Obama also delivered a speech at the ceremony and placed the future museum within a broader historical context:

As others have mentioned, this day has been a long time coming.  The idea for a museum dedicated to African Americans was first put forward by black veterans of the Civil War.  And years later, the call was picked up by members of the civil rights generation -– by men and women who knew how to fight for what was right and strive for what is just.  This is their day.  This is your day.  It’s an honor to be here to see the fruit of your labor.

It’s also fitting that this museum has found a home on the National Mall.  As has been mentioned, it was on this ground long ago that lives were once traded, where hundreds of thousands once marched for jobs and for freedom.  It was here that the pillars of our democracy were built, often by black hands.  And it is on this spot –- alongside the monuments to those who gave birth to this nation, and those who worked so hard to perfect it –- that generations will remember the sometimes difficult, often inspirational, but always central role that African Americans have played in the life of our country.

(For the full speech click here)

Michelle Obama, former first lady Laura Bush, Rep. John Lewis,D-Ga., and Gov. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., were in attendance.

Click here to learn more about the museum.

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