Smithsonian Artifacts and Music Legends Share the Stage in Tonight’s Star-Studded Television Program

Notable African-American performing artists commemorate the opening of the National Museum of African American History

On the eve of the opening of the newest Smithsonian museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama rocked out in box seats as a powerhouse of musical greats entertained a packed house at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Hosted by Tom Hanks, the roster of artists was a reputable who's who of American pop culture, featuring Gladys Knight, John Legend and Mary J. Blige, among others.

This private concert now gets its public debut, as ABC airs the two-hour special at 9 p.m. (EST), January 12.  Oprah Winfrey sets the tone as she bellows “Hallelujah!” with arms thrown wide and a joyful exuberance ensues. The evening is not just a celebration of the new building, but a tribute to those whose stories are told within the museum's walls. The Tuskegee airmen of World War II, whose training plane hangs high above the history gallery, are recognized, and film footage of iconic items in the museum's collection air interspersed with the dynamic performances.