On Saturday, the doors of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture will open to the public, achieving a goal of black Americans that has been a century in the making.
The 19th Smithsonian Institution was designed to tell the story of the United States America—from its founding to today—from an African American perspective. The museum will also challenge visitors to grapple with some of the uglier points of American history, from the slave trade to Jim Crow.
“We felt it was crucial to craft a museum that would help America remember and confront, confront its tortured racial past,” said Lonnie Bunch, the director of the museum, at a press conference marking the museum’s opening. “But we also thought while America should ponder the pain of slavery and segregation, it also had to find the joy, the hope, the resiliency, the spirituality that was endemic in this community.”
The pieces the museum houses are meant to tell the unique tale of African American resilience; from the handmade tin box a black man used to carry his freedom papers to the headgear the late Muhammad Ali used to protect his head during fights.
The museum acquired some 40,000 artifacts for its collection, which curators only expect to continue to grow. Click through to see just a few of them.