College student Clifton Kinnie, 19, figures he may have been the youngest person to get a sneak peek at the inside of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The sophomore Howard University political science student grew up in Ferguson, Missouri and took part in the months of protest there following the police shooting of Michael Brown.
“It's a powerful feeling,” said Kinney, as he celebrated a museum that helps tell the rest of the American story, a bronze presence amidst the gleaming white marble of the National Mall.
“Now young people in many generations can come here and learn the true story of a great people that helped to build a great country,” said Kinney.
The museum takes you back in time to the 1400s and the start of the slave trade. Right from the beginning, you're confronted by the contradiction at the nation's founding.
A statue of Thomas Jefferson, author of the words in the Declaration of Independence, "All men are created equal" is surrounded by shackles and blocks engraved with the names of the enslaved people he owned.
“Saddened because this is so much history that we haven't really been taught,” said Kinney.
Walk back up from the bottom level and you see the fight for freedom, a stone block where slaves were sold, and Harriet Tubman's prayer shawl.
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You see Frederick Douglas, the struggle for civil rights, the Black Panther Movement and even handcuffs and tee shirts from today's Black Lives Movement.
Kinnie was 17 years old during the Ferguson protests. “A community wanting to mourn, wanting to understand why a young black boy was left dead in the street for over four hours.”
The last window in the history exhibit commemorates the inauguration of Barack Obama. Kinnie got to meet him at a town hall. “I come from a legacy of many great people and history is still being made.”
Clifton Kinnie tells WUSA9 it just really moved him to walk up from the bottom and slavery to the top and the joy he expected to find on the upper floors. He may go into law, or something else. But he hopes for a chance to make history, too.