Bush's successor, President Barack Obama, will help officially open the museum to the public. That duality lingers still, Obama said, through successes such as his presidency, and trials such as the police killings of black men.
"We're not a burden on America, or a stain on America, or an object of pity or charity for America". "We congratulate and honor those involved with the project and recognize today the incredible contributions of the African-American community to this nation".
The pastor said the donations for the museum, devoted to the history of African-Americans, given by the church members range from 50 cents to $20,000.
Before formally opening the museum, Obama will ring the Freedom Bell, acquired in 1886 by the historic First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Virginia.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture was created in 2003 by an Act of Congress, establishing it as part of the Smithsonian Institution.
"This place is more than a building, it is a dream come true", Lewis said. "It is central to the American story".
The museum, constructed from February 2014 under a bill signed by then U.S. president George Bush in 2003, is a three-tiered building whose exterior is made up of 3,600 bronze-colored panels. Right now, they're reserved through December, with a few tickets available when the museum opens every morning.
"It's like walking across the desert and finally getting to a fountain of water to quench your thirst".
The museum is the 19th and the newest of the Smithsonians. Ground was broken in February 2012.
Former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who cosponsored legislation authorizing the museum, were present at the ceremony.
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He spoke at the dedication ceremony and said a great nation does not hide from its history, but 'faces its flaws and corrects them'.
A clear-eyed view of history can make us uncomfortable.
"For a long time, the only thing we considered important, the singular thing we once chose to commemorate as history, with a plaque, were the unmemorable speeches of two powerful men".
Go inside the National Museum of African American History and Culture's Sweet Home Café with Executive Chef Jerome Grant.
A museum 100 years in the making, the NMAAHC is much more than just a collection of artifacts.
"But it is precisely of that discomfort that we learn and grow and harness our collective power to make this nation more flawless". Among those who were able to visit on the museum's opening day, many posed by the statue of the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games Black Power salute and gazed at the juxtaposition of President Thomas Jefferson's writing implements and the shackles he used on slaves.
Since you probably won't be able to get in this weekend, NPR recently took a tour of the museum before it opened.
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" He added: "And so it is entirely fitting that we tell this story on our National Mall, the same place we tell the stories of [President George] Washington and [President Thomas] Jefferson and our independence". GE donated $5 million toward the construction of the museum. "I'm inspired by history", she said.