Museum of African American History Opens, Telling Story of Sinful Slavery, Segregation in Nation’s Past

slavery-compressed
1853 drawing

WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian Museum of African American History opened its doors to the public on Saturday, taking visitors on a journey through America’s past from its struggles with the national sin of slavery and segregation to the days when blacks were finally recognized as being equal to whites.

The 400,000 square foot museum was first proposed in 1915 by African American veterans of the civil war, and in 2003, its creation was approved by Congress, putting in motion a 13-year effort to tell America’s story through the eyes of its black citizens.

The $540 million facility features over 36,000 donated artifacts, including items used to buy slaves, a sample segregated railway car, and the shawl of underground railroad hero Harriet Tubman, as well as items surrounding contributions blacks have made to America’s history.

The lower floors of the museum tell the story of the nation’s stain of slavery and segregation from its early years to the 1950’s, while the upper levels provide more light-hearted examples of black celebrities in modern America.

Director Lonnie Bunch told NPR that the museum serve to “remember not just the well-known, but also those famous only to their families, whose lives in quiet ways shaped this nation.”

“We remember so we can ponder the pain of slavery, segregation and second-class citizenry, but we also find the resiliency, the faith, the hope, the joy that is so much a part of the African-American community,” she said.

Passes for the opening weekend of the Museum of African American history sold out, and approximately 7,000 people were in attendance for the grand opening ceremony on Saturday. Barack Obama and George W. Bush were among those who spoke during the event.

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“A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws, and corrects them,” Bush said. “This museum tells the truth that a country founded on the promise of liberty held millions in chains, that the price of our union was America’s original sin. From the beginning some spoke to truth. John Adams called slavery an evil of colossal magnitude.”

“Their voices were not heeded and often not heard, but they were known to a power greater than any on earth—One who loves His children and meant them to be free,” he stated.

museum-compressedObama told those gathered, “African American history is not somehow separate than the American story. It is not the underside of the American story. It is central to the American story.”

“The very fact of this day does not prove that America is perfect, but it does validate the ideas of our founding—that this country born of change, of revolution, of we the people, that this country can get better,” he said.

According to the Spurgeon Center in Kansas City, Missouri, slave owners and others, particularly in the South, openly burned the sermons of well-known preacher Charles Spurgeon in the 1800’s and threatened to kill him due to his rebuke of the sin of slavery.

“Spurgeon’s character was assassinated throughout the Confederacy. His sermons, which in 1862-1863 sold one million copies annually, were censured. His books, which sold 1,000 copies per minute at trade shows, were publicly destroyed. Sermon bonfires illuminated jail yards, plantations, and bookshops throughout the Southern states,” it outlines.

“I do from my inmost soul detest slavery … and although I commune at the Lord’s table with men of all creeds, yet with a slave-holder I have no fellowship of any sort or kind. Whenever one has called upon me, I have considered it my duty to express my detestation of his wickedness, and I would as soon think of receiving a murderer into my church … as a man stealer,” Spurgeon once said.

“[I]t was God that gave an Abraham Lincoln, who led the nation onward till ‘Emancipation’ flamed upon its banners.”

But slavery also existed in the North, as the site Slavery in the North explains, “Slaves were auctioned openly in the Market House of Philadelphia; in the shadow of Congregational churches in Rhode Island; in Boston taverns and warehouses; and weekly, sometimes daily, in Merchant’s Coffee House of New York. ”

While a number of the Founding Fathers owned slaves (some of them being said as treating their slaves kindly), others eventually became supportive of abolitionist efforts, including Statesmen Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin, as well as the first U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Jay.


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  • Blackpierce

    This is not only offensive to me as a white American, but unaccurate. Families often were together, and were very close to their white owners, even choosing to stay after being freed. It’s simply not true that all slave owners mistreated their slaves. And don’t forget the Barbary Slave Trade. also known as the White Slave Trade. Slavery has existed in pretty much every type of peoples. It’s not just blacks who were enslaved, and it’s not just whites who enslaved.

    • Regan DuCasse

      Are you serious? You are, aren’t you? Where to even start with your comment.

    • Tony

      They will NOT show that Fact the Africans Sold other Africans INTO
      SLAVERY. They will not tell this FACT. The True history will not be
      told. And for 100+ yrs we have been made to believe a false truth and
      mislead to believe that America just picked up people “anyone” from the
      jungles in America. (” Oh, here is some people we can Kidnap and make
      them pick cotton and tend the fields” ). That is what we are taught to
      believe. Even within the African community that teach this ” All White
      people had slaves and all in the south treated em like Hell in earth.
      This is Not the truth, We are also taught the the south had slaves and
      this is true But the Northern states had them too. The American Civil
      War was NOT all about Slavery. It may have been a issue But not 100% It
      wasn’t until half way through that war that it was a major issue. Not
      slavery and racism is good. Also remember Africa started Slavery …
      Moses And the People that would become Israel < yes Africa enslaving
      people. Look also through out time all the Turmoil that Africa has had
      or started within its self. And some of this was caused by Africans and
      not from Europeans being in Africa. To this day there is and will be
      tomorrow Turmoil. They do not like even themselves and they blame
      everyone else for their treatment of the past . How many yrs must we (
      Caucasian people) be blamed for their acts. MLK got them their Rights in
      America yet, they continue to act like " It is all the White mans
      fault". So, the reason why they (African Americans) are dead or in
      Jail/Prison is it is the White mans fault?? Seriously. You did a crime
      and then African Americans a point a finger at All Caucasian people? The
      Fact is History told wrong is not the real History and it is a Lie.
      Africans were treated Better in some ways Better than the Americans
      Indians. They worked and the got a place to live , food. They didnt have
      freedom yes. But they were not Kill because Caucasian people wanted the
      land.Indian Reservation was a Concentration Camp and Segregation is
      Totally different. The Great plains Indian tribes had to deal with
      starvation and hunger issues when Caucasian people Killed off the
      Buffalo. And they were kill to just kill not as a food source. thye were
      kill and for the most part the meat was left to rot. You know this
      African museum will not show a true fact about why they were in slavery
      to start with. A false or incomplete history is a Fake History and
      Misleads a people….. FACTS are Facts !!!!. True History is the truth not some LIE we have been Mislkead and Forced to believe.

  • ben

    Whoever wrote this is biblically illiterate. There are many place where the bible condones slavery. Jesus never declaimed the institution, and in fact used a slave as one of his parables (Matt 18: 21-35). Paul never criticized slavery and admonished slaves to obey their earthly masters well (Eph 6:5-9). Leviticus 25 gives myriad and specific rules for how to keep slaves and clearly indicates that Israelites can take slaves for life, in exactly the same way US slaveholders did (Lev 25:44-46). Exodus (the same book that tells us how God created the universe) gives instructions for sex slavery (Ex 21).

    And before anyone raises Philemon, remember that that is Paul telling ONE slave (not all) to go back to his master (!!!!) and tell the master that Paul has instructed him (the master) to free the slave (!!!!!!) and expects this man to decide to do so because his slave tells the master that Paul said so (!!!!!!!!!!). Oh also Onesimus has just converted, so it’s not clear if his “usefulness” (heh) proceeds directly from his conversion – implying that this is necessary before one can be freed.

    All in all at best a lukewarm abolitionist document

  • WorldGoneCrazy

    Praise God for Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Charles Surgeon, and all of the members of the Underground Railroad too, for their fight against slavery!

    Now, it is high time for the Smithsonian to open a wing devoted to today’s national sin: abortion, even if they do not have the Abortion President speak at that one.

    “Dred Scott and all slaves were told that they were not persons but property and we’re telling babies in the womb that they are not children but that they are the property of their mother. It was ‘inconvenient’ for the slaveholders to not have slaves; and it’s ‘inconvenient’ for mothers to have children they don’t want. But that doesn’t make them any less human.” — Lynne Jackson, great, great-granddaughter of Dred Scott

    “Abortion and racism are both symptoms of a fundamental human error. The error is thinking that when someone stands in the way of our wants, we can justify getting that person out of our lives. Abortion and racism stem from the same poisonous root, selfishness.” — Alveda King

    “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Reason2012

    Don’t expect them to point out that Democrats are the ones that were for slavery and Republicans were the ones that eliminated it.

    • RWH

      Well, that was then, and this is now. The two parties basically switched sides prior to and during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. Strong Thurman and Senator Byrd were probably the last of the Dixiecrats. Lots of others switched political affiliations. If you visit the museum, I’m sure that they will credit the Democrats of that time as being in favor of slavery. They might even tell how the Southern Baptist Convention broke off from the other Baptists because they felt slavery was biblical. It took them over a hundred years to apologize for that stance.

    • ben

      Party realignment after the civil rights act of 1964. It never struck you as strange that the entire confederacy started voting republican? They certainly were not doing so at the time of Lincoln.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Non-West’s demon-worships and barbarisms were horrific destructive sinful. Pagan men were only good at oppressing women. Without the Christian white race, the whole mankind would not have the copies of the Holy Bible, Christian teachings, systematic theology, charity systems, universal literacy and public education, the concept of human rights and freedom and equality and rules of the law, classic literature, classic music with all the musical instruments, modern science therefore life longevity, electricity, modern lifestyle, and everything today’s civilized world deems as essential and common. They are all exclusively white men’s inventions. No other race did it. Arabic numerals and Chinese gun powders are exception. The world should remember the history wholesomely and be grateful to the white race for all the pioneer works and inventions. We all learned the greatest things and thoughts from the white people. Just don’t submit to today’s West’s Sodomism; it’s a disgrace for a human being to submit to the Western Sodomites and ruin the children. The entire world enslaved each other, but the white people were not sexual pervs like today’s Sodomites when they legally owned slaves. God has spared mankind from having excessive grief. The Holy Bible liberates everyone.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Many white Christians worked for slaves’ freedom and that’s why equality among races was made possible on Planet Earth. Every raw Earthling was a slave to a villain human in a darkness; the only consolation is that human population was not much in the Bibleless darkness. Freedom never happened outside of the white men’s Christendom. Protestant Reformers’ claims for the rights to access to God’s Truth brought quests for the truth therefore human freedom to all on Planet Earth. The Christian Western civilization was the only civilization that had wars for the rights to the objective truth instead of just territories or money or women in the world. Mankind did not know that all men and women and children are equal before God until the white Christians taught and liberated mankind. They should create a museum on Christian white men’s contribution on Earthlings’ development in every sense. The reason the oppressed colored people are willfully Christian is because the white men’s Christianity was superb, regardless of the individual white person’s behaviour or man-made laws’ unfairness. Though there were abuses and problems, the English people brought human rights and lawfulness into the whole world for everyone’s good along with the copies of the Holy Bible. It was time.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    A lot of tribes and clans on earth still struggle to admit being equal within the same race. And one is always and for-ever a slave to warped rich pervs if he does not have the Bible literacy. Thanks to the white Christian missionaries for distrubuting the Holy Bible in the world so anyone can always battle for freedom. Freedom is having a right to proclaim God’s truth as it is and live it out with a clear conscience. Bending to today’s Western notion of sexual immorality is a just form of mental slavery. Working in cotton field or making railroads has nothing to be ashamed in the labor itself. Being forced to treat some mental ill people’s sexual sins as something normal is a very shameful thing as a human being and nothing a truly free man can do. Today’s USA needs the Holy Bible for freedom from the self-imposed slavery of immorality.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    If the world continues, the future generation will build a museum of today’s USA telling the reasons of collapse of USA and all her mentally-servant nations by listing up: blasphemies, disrespect, infanticide, suicide, mercy-killing(= honor killing), all kinds of sexual perversions, collapse of family units, child-abuses, slavery of the poor by the rich instead by a different race, and religious persecution against the Christians. The fomer and future Americans, both the white and black, must be very happy they are not living today’s era.

  • Representative

    Let’s realize that many of the first slavetraders were the Africans themselves, as well as many Jews. The white man was a minority in the slave trade business, truth be told.

    • Tony

      They will NOT show that Fact the Africans Sold other Africans INTO
      SLAVERY. They will not tell this FACT. The True history will not be
      told. And for 100+ yrs we have been made to believe a false truth and
      mislead to believe that America just picked up people “anyone” from the
      jungles in America. (” Oh, here is some people we can Kidnap and make
      them pick cotton and tend the fields” ). That is what we are taught to
      believe. Even within the African community that teach this ” All White
      people had slaves and all in the south treated em like Hell in earth.
      This is Not the truth, We are also taught the the south had slaves and
      this is true But the Northern states had them too. The American Civil
      War was NOT all about Slavery. It may have been a issue But not 100% It
      wasn’t until half way through that war that it was a major issue. Not
      slavery and racism is good. Also remember Africa started Slavery …
      Moses And the People that would become Israel < yes Africa enslaving
      people. Look also through out time all the Turmoil that Africa has had
      or started within its self. And some of this was caused by Africans and
      not from Europeans being in Africa. To this day there is and will be
      tomorrow Turmoil. They do not like even themselves and they blame
      everyone else for their treatment of the past . How many yrs must we (
      Caucasian people) be blamed for their acts. MLK got them their Rights in
      America yet, they continue to act like " It is all the White mans
      fault". So, the reason why they (African Americans) are dead or in
      Jail/Prison is it is the White mans fault?? Seriously. You did a crime
      and then African Americans a point a finger at All Caucasian people? The
      Fact is History told wrong is not the real History and it is a Lie.
      Africans were treated Better in some ways Better than the Americans
      Indians. They worked and the got a place to live , food. They didnt have
      freedom yes. But they were not Kill because Caucasian people wanted the
      land.Indian Reservation was a Concentration Camp and Segregation is
      Totally different. The Great plains Indian tribes had to deal with
      starvation and hunger issues when Caucasian people Killed off the
      Buffalo. And they were kill to just kill not as a food source. thye were
      kill and for the most part the meat was left to rot. You know this
      African museum will not show a true fact about why they were in slavery
      to start with. A false or incomplete history is a Fake History and
      Misleads a people….. FACTS are Facts !!!!. True History is the truth
      not some LIE we have been Mislead and Forced to believe… This is a FACT. Africa had Slaves of their own LONG before the USA.

  • Tony

    u
    They will NOT show that Fact the Africans Sold other Africans INTO SLAVERY. They will not tell this FACT. The True history will not be told. And for 100+ yrs we have been made to believe a false truth and mislead to believe that America just picked up people “anyone” from the jungles in America. (” Oh, here is some people we can Kidnap and make them pick cotton and tend the fields” ). That is what we are taught to believe. Even within the African community that teach this ” All White people had slaves and all in the south treated em like Hell in earth. This is Not the truth, We are also taught the the south had slaves and this is true But the Northern states had them too. The American Civil War was NOT all about Slavery. It may have been a issue But not 100% It wasn’t until half way through that war that it was a major issue. Not slavery and racism is good. Also remember Africa started Slavery … Moses And the People that would become Israel < yes Africa enslaving people. Look also through out time all the Turmoil that Africa has had or started within its self. And some of this was caused by Africans and not from Europeans being in Africa. To this day there is and will be tomorrow Turmoil. They do not like even themselves and they blame everyone else for their treatment of the past . How many yrs must we ( Caucasian people) be blamed for their acts. MLK got them their Rights in America yet, they continue to act like " It is all the White mans fault". So, the reason why they (African Americans) are dead or in Jail/Prison is it is the White mans fault?? Seriously. You did a crime and then African Americans a point a finger at All Caucasian people? The Fact is History told wrong is not the real History and it is a Lie. Africans were treated Better in some ways Better than the Americans Indians. They worked and the got a place to live , food. They didnt have freedom yes. But they were not Kill because Caucasian people wanted the land.Indian Reservation was a Concentration Camp and Segregation is Totally different. The Great plains Indian tribes had to deal with starvation and hunger issues when Caucasian people Killed off the Buffalo. And they were kill to just kill not as a food source. thye were kill and for the most part the meat was left to rot. You know this African museum will not show a true fact about why they were in slavery to start with. A false or incomplete history is a Fake History and Misleads a people.

  • BeBeX

    Slavery was a despicable atrocity in America. There are two things I still don’t understand. President Abraham Lincoln was a Republican who fought for freedom and gave his life for ending slavery. Yet today in America more African Americans vote democratic, which is the party that opposed President Lincoln in abolishing slavery.

    Slavery still exists today in America. Yet it is not mentioned in the media, by the current President, nor the American people. The Sex-Slave trade in America is massive. Even young children are kidnapped, repeatedly tortured, kept in bondage and passed around.
    Where is the outrage….the protest….the marches….the money to end this atrocity?

    Slavery was abolished 150 years ago, yet today we have slavery in every corner and every state of America. $540 million was spent to build a museum of past history, what are we doing for slavery in America in 2016? We need to put our money where our mouth is. If we say we don’t condone slavery, then why does it still exist in America today in 2016?