The four-level museum, which opened on Sept. 24, 2016, is the only national museum solely dedicated to the documentation of African American life, history and culture. Influential entertainers who participated in its opening included Christina Aguilera, Alvin Ailey dancers, Patti Austin, Angela Bassett, Jon Batiste, Mary J. Blige, Shirley Caesar, Dave Chappelle, Chloe x Halle, Chuck D., Gary Clark Jr., Common, Cynthia Erivo, Fantasia, Jamie Foxx, Doug E. Fresh, Robert Glasper, Savion Glover, Dave Grohl with Trouble Funk, Herbie Hancock, Tom Hanks, Samuel L. Jackson, Quincy Jones, Rashida Jones, Elijah Kelley, Gladys Knight, John Legend, Mary Mary, Donnie McClurkin, Janelle Monae, Ne-Yo, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, Octavia Spencer, Chris Tucker, Usher, Jesse Williams, Oprah Winfrey and Stevie Wonder.
World-renowned dignitaries, athletes and artists from around the globe came together for the program at Washington’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Designed to explore and celebrate African American contributions to the global landscape, the program featured film footage of iconic items from the museum’s collections – items ranging from a plane used to train the famed Tuskegee airmen for World War II combat duty to a Bible owned by Nat Turner. The film is accompanied by music, dance and dramatic readings by a wide range of stage and screen actors. The executive producers were Don Mischer and Quincy Jones, along with Don Mischer Productions’ Charlie Haykel and Juliane Hare. The production was filmed on Sept. 23, 2016, and originally broadcast on ABC nationwide on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017.