The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture opens Saturday on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., after more than a century of struggle to find a place for African-American history in the U.S. The inauguration by President Barack Obama will be followed by a three-day festival.

More than 3,500 artifacts, including a set of slave shackles, a Tuskegee Airmen biplane and a fedora that belonged to Michael Jackson, will be on display in the 400,000-square-foot museum, which is the only one in the U.S. exclusively focused on African-American life, history and culture.

"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,'" Obama said Friday, asking people to visit the museum amid the increasing number of shootings involving black people. 

"My hope is that this complicated, difficult, sometimes harrowing but I believe ultimately triumphant story will help us talk to each other," Obama said, adding: "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."

First lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush, Chief Justice John Roberts and Rep. John Lewis, a veteran of the civil rights movement, will be present at Saturday's opening ceremony.

The construction of the museum, which is designed by British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye, was completed earlier this year — almost four years after ground was broken. The three-tiered bronze exterior panels of the museum are inspired by an African wooden column, and the patterned tiles that adorn it are inspired by 19th century ironwork created by slaves in the South.

You can watch the live stream of the opening ceremony on the museum’s website (

Highlights of the three-day event:

  • The official opening Saturday will begin at 10 a.m., with Obama leading the dedication ceremony outside the museum, at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Before the opening, musical performances and readings of African-American literature is scheduled for 9 a.m.
  • A three-day music festival, “Freedom Sounds: A Community Celebration,” featuring jazz, folk, rock and hip-hop acts has been organized on the Washington Monument grounds. Metal-funk-punk band "Living Colour," the group "Public Enemy" and hip-hop group the "Rootswill" will perform Saturday from 6-9 p.m. At the same time on Sunday, funk band "Experience Unlimited" and singer-songwriter "Meshell Ndegeocello" will take the stage. Here is the full schedule of the performances.

Museum timings:

The museum will be opened to public at 1 p.m. Saturday. After the three-day festival ends, free same-day passes will be distributed on a first-come-first-served basis to visitors. Each person can get up to four same-day passes. Advance passes for entry to the museum will be available through the museum’s website. However, no advances passes are available through October.

The museum will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but will have extended hours through the first weekend in October: Sept. 24, 1-8 p.m.; Sept. 25, 7 a.m. to midnight; Sept. 26-30, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 1, 10 a.m. to midnight; and Oct. 2, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The Smithsonian Institution shared some tips before the grand opening:

  • You must have a timed pass to enter the museum
  • There are no same day passes for the opening weekend
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Check for street closures
  • Use public transportation
  • Be ready for security screening
  • Beware counterfeit timed passes
  • Wheelchairs are limited. Please bring your own