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The long and winding history of the new Smithsonian black history museum

WASHINGTON -- Thousands of people from all over the country, including many Georgians and yes, Oprah Winfrey, will gather on the National Mall this morning to watch as President Barack Obama formally dedicates the new National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The mood here may be celebratory and reflective, but the history behind the Smithsonian Institution's 19th museum is anything but short or breezy.

Atlanta Congressman John Lewis, who is slated to speak at the grand opening this morning, is a reminder of that. It took the longtime lawmaker and civil rights icon more than 15 years of wrangling on Capitol Hill to get members of Congress to greenlight the museum.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg for a memorial that traces its roots back to 1916.

Read up on the history of the museum here and its many Southern exhibits here before the festivities begin at 9 a.m.

Read more of our museum coverage: 

Another historic crusade for John Lewis 

Journey to history: Atlantans to go to Washington for museum opening

Morehouse another Atlanta link to new Smithsonian black museum

John Lewis will donate Civil Rights mementos to new African American history museum

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.