Barack Obama and Stevie Wonder to celebrate opening of new African-American Smithsonian museum

Thousands are expected to attend the opening festival over the weekend in the States

image via Wikipedia

image via Wikipedia

The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture opens today, following a dedication ceremony by President Barack Obama.

There are tens of thousands of people expected to attend the museum over the weekend, as a three-day celebration will take place in honour of the new museum.

Speaking at the White House on Friday, President Obama said: "My hope is that as people are seeing what's happening in Tulsa or Charlotte on television, and perhaps are less familiar with not only the history of the African-American experience but also how recent some of these challenges have been, upon visiting the museum may step back and say, 'I understand. I sympathize. I empathize. I can see why folks might feel angry. And I want to be part of the solution, as opposed to resisting change'."

"My hope is that this complicated, difficult, sometimes harrowing but I believe ultimately triumphant story will help us talk to each other. And more importantly, listen to each other. And even more important, see each other. And recognize the common humanity that makes America what it is."

Obama is expected to give a speech at the official opening ceremony today, and will be joined by First Lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush, Chief Justice John Roberts and veteran civil rights movement advocate Rep. John Lewis.

Today's event is also scheduled to incoude include musical performances by Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle and Denyce Graves, while both Robert De Niro and Angela Bassett will perform readings of black poets and historians.

It will be the only museum in the US to focus solely on African-American history, with President Bush first signed the bill to create it in 2003, before ground was broken to begin construction in February 2012.