African American Museum

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Hope for a United Future in America’s Divided Past
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During a bitter election year, a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture reinforced the view that progress comes only with constant pressure, writes Mary C. Curtis. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

When you enter the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, you step into an elevator going down, and through its glass walls, the years flash by, with history moving backward, to the 1400s. Campaign 2016 has often resembled that kind of journey, not moving that far into the past, of course, but far enough to a time when no thin line of civility kept American citizens from lashing out at one another — loudly, and with anger and violence.

That has been the dispiriting price of the long slog to Election Day, Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton, with the country collectively collapsing at the finish line. Still, it would be wise for all Americans to acknowledge that there are miles to go, and that this path is one we have traveled since the beginning, often with one side celebrating and the other deflated — a future of cooperation and compromise downright impossible to imagine.

A Museum Opens Following a Century of Effort
The winding road to the building of an African-American history museum

The exterior of the Museum of African American History and Culture as seen during the media preview day on Sept. 14. The newest of the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall opens on Saturday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After numerous challenges and outright opposition, the quest for a national museum documenting the history and cultural contributions of African-Americans has been realized.

Follow the decades of history, full of starts and stops, below: