The museum, which re-opened Monday in a new $5 million space, tells the story of African Americans who fought to end slavery and unite a nation. Among those speaking at the re-dedication was D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, who seized the moment of historic reflection to illuminate the districts ongoing struggle for self rule.
"Why is it that a city that's balanced its budget for 14 consecutive years have to send its budget up to a group of people for approval who can't even get action on the debt ceiling?" he said during remarks at the ceremony.
Gray and other city leaders have been particularly vocal on the issue of D.C. statehood this year, after Congress in May passed a budget deal that banned the District from spending taxpayer funds on abortions.
"African Americans stood up for freedom in this nation, yet we still have 600,000 people 150 years later who still don't enjoy freedom in this city," Gray says. "So there certainly is a nexus between then and now, and we couldn't let the opportunity go by without mentioning that."
The standing room only crowd at the museum opening continued to loudly applaud the mayor's comments. Gray called for a rally late in August to focus attention on home rule for the District.