African American history has finally taken its rightful place within the Smithsonian Institution with the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

It was a group of black Civil War veterans that first advocated for the idea of a national African American history museum in the early 1900s.

Fast forward decades later, a group of congressmen led by Civil Rights Icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga) took the fight for the museum to Capitol Hill.

Some representatives who opposed the museum said the project was too costly. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), warned the museum would set a dangerous precedent and open the floodgates for additional museums dedicated to other racial minorities. (I wonder how he felt about the Holocaust museum?)

2001, President Bush created a commission to explore the need for the museum and develop a plan of action. After much debate, the NMAAHC was finally signed into law in 2003, making it the 19th Smithsonian Museum.

Despite the fact that the government will only cover half of the museum’s $540 million, the museum has found support from many charitable givers like Oprah Winfrey, Melinda Gates, and individual donors.

The museum encapsulates the struggle, triumph and story of African Americans dating back to the horrific details of the slave trade.

During the museum’s opening, President Obama expressed hope that a new national museum showcasing the triumphs and tragedies of the African American experience will help to bring people together as a the nation reels from recent racial upheaval.

Located on the National Mall, the doors officially opened Saturday. The exhibits trace the journey of African Americans from slavery to 20th century icons like Oprah Winfrey.