America I Am offers chance to see the Declaration of Independence

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america-i-amSen. Jenny Oropeza invites the public to join her in welcoming the West Coast debut of an exhibition of unprecedented scope honoring the role African-Americans have played in forging America.

America I AM: The African American Imprint brings together Americans of all cultures, ages and backgrounds to celebrate and better understand the importance of contributions African Americans have made to this country,’’ said Oropeza, D-Long Beach, a ‘partner’, or supporter of the exhibit.

America I AM: The African American Imprint is a touring exhibition presented by broadcaster Tavis Smiley that celebrates nearly 500 years of African American contributions to the U.S.

One of four original copies of the Declaration of Independence will be on display until January 15, 2010, along with other new additions exclusive to the Los Angeles presentation such as items from Magic Johnson, Serena Williams, Carl Lewis, NASA astronauts, and more.

Among the poignant pieces in the exhibition are:

  • “The Door of No Return” from the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, which enslaved Africans passed through to board ships to the “New World”
  • Items from contemporary icons including Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Etta James, Jimi Hendrix, Magic Johnson, Serena Williams, Tupac, and others
  • Objects representing the African American troops that fought and impacted the outcome of major U.S. wars
  • Malcolm X’s journal and personal Koran
  • A model of the first traffic signal that served as the basis for today’s traffic lights
  • The door key and stool from the Birmingham jail cell that held Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he authored “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
  • Frederick Douglass’ clothing and letter from President Lincoln that enabled him to move among Union lines recruiting black soldiers
  • The robe Muhammad Ali wore during training for the “Rumble in the Jungle,” where he defeated world heavyweight champion George Foreman
  • And many other important items from the beginnings of our nation through today

California Science Center will host the exhibition from October 30, 2009 to April 15, 2010, as the third stop on the exhibition’s 10-city, four-year tour, following Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center and the Atlanta Civic Center.

America I AM is a 13,000 square-foot presentation of pivotal moments in courage, conviction and creativity that celebrate the undeniable imprint of African Americans on our nation and around the world. Through more than150 rare historic objects, documents, photos and multimedia, visitors can explore how African Americans have contributed to and shaped American culture across four core areas: economic, socio-political, cultural and spiritual. The exhibition relates important events and people from the beginnings of the nation up through the present-day inauguration of the first African American president.

Through 12 galleries, America I AM conveys a journey from struggle to triumph to celebration through personal artifacts and innovations from African American artists, activists and inventors. An interactive area allows visitors to leave their own video “imprints,” a collection that will grow throughout the tour with the potential to become the largest recorded oral history project in U.S. history.

Tickets for America I AM: The African American Imprint are available at the Science Center box office, by phone at 323-SCIENCE or 213-744-2019 or at There are no same-day phone sales. America I AM admission prices are $9.50 for adults (18-59); $8.50 for students/youth (13-17), college students with I.D. and seniors (60+); and $6 for children (4-12). Admission to all other Science Center exhibits is free.

The California Science Center and IMAX Theater are located in historic Exposition Park just west of the Harbor (110) Freeway at 700 Exposition Park Drive. The Science Center and America I AM are open daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

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