12 Exhibits You Must See at the National Museum of African American History and Culture
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12 Exhibits You Must See at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

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Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The President, First Lady and prominent leaders and celebrities celebrated the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture on Saturday.

Thousands of people gathered at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Saturday to celebrate the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Streaming by the Washington Monument—not far from where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963—excited guests staked out their place on the grass while vendors offered tote bags of the Obama family alongside “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were joined by Oprah Winfrey, Angela Bassett, Will Smith, as well as many other celebrities for the festivities to honor the opening day of the museum.

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“As Americans we rightfully passed on the tales of the giants who built this country…but too often we ignored or forgot the stories of millions upon millions of others who built this nation just as surely, whose humble eloquence, whose calloused hands, whose steady drive helped to create cities, erect industries, build the arsenals of democracy,” Obama said on the National Mall Saturday.

“By knowing this other story, we better understand ourselves and each other. It binds us together and reaffirms that all of us are American,” he said.

While tickets to the museum are sold out until 2017, you can still get a peek at some of the must-see artifacts from inside this historic collection.

Harriet Tubman’s shawl

This silk and lace shawl was given to Tubman by Queen Victoria of England. Tubman’s contributions to the abolition movement have made her a hero to Americans for nearly two centuries, known as one of the leaders of the Underground Railroad that led thousands of slaves to freedom.

Chuck Berry’s 1973 Cadillac

One of the first greats of rock and roll, Berry was known for his killer guitar skills and his signature flashy style, including this iconic car.

Black Lives Matter posters

These posters and other items from the 2014 protests in Ferguson over the police shooting of Michael Brown helped spark the ongoing activism known as the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

“This is one of the most significant moments in world history ever, as far as I’m concerned,” rapper Common told reporters at the Mariott Encouraghers luncheon Friday. “You saw a whole group of young people that galvanized and started making a change in the world that we needed.”

Oprah Winfrey studio couch

The famed talk show host, who also donated $12 million to the museum, contributed one of the studio couches from her show.

South Carolina slave cabin

This cabin from South Carolina, dating from the first half of the 19th century, gives visitors a glimpse into what daily life was like for slaves.

Emmett Till’s Casket

A mob tortured and killed this 14 year-old boy for allegedly flirting with a white woman. His gruesome death in 1955 would help spark the burgeoning civil rights movement.

Ava Duvernay's museum orientation video

The award-winning director of the film “Selma” lent her talents to create an orientation video meant to welcome visitors to the museum. Entitled “August 28,” the film covers a variety of events in African-American history that all happened to take place on August 28th. Some of these notable moments include the death of Emmett Till, Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and then Senator Obama’s acceptance of the Democratic nomination for president in 2008.

“It’s just this little piece of magic in black history,” Duvernay said Friday.

Emancipation Proclamation

This 1863 document by President Lincoln effectively freed the slaves and ushered in a new era of U.S. history.

J Dilla mini moog

J Dilla was one of the first and most influential hip-hop artists in the U.S., and his contribution to music will be honored through the inclusion of his mini moog, a beat-maker he created.

Jim Crow railroad car

This car serves as a reminder of the period of systematic segregation in the U.S.

Muhammad Ali headgear

Boxing great and African-American advocate Ali wore this head protection in his later matches.

James Baldwin's U.S. passport

The acclaimed writer wrote about the experience of being black in the mid-twentieth century in a series of visceral novels and essays.

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PRESTON KERES/AFP/Getty Images

For the thousands of people who attended the inauguration but were unable to get tickets to go inside, the day’s festivities still represented a symbolic moment not only in African-American history, but in all of history.

“This place is more than a building, it is a dream come true,” Civil Rights activist and U.S. Rep. John Lewis said.

Jess McHugh is a digital reporter for Travel + Leisure. You can find her on Twitter at @MchughJess.

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