Rebecca Brown remembers taking field trips as a schoolgirl to a little house that served as Detroit's original black history museum.

"It was so tiny. I remember thinking how small it was and black people must not have had a lot of history," said Brown, now 32.Today's schoolchildren are getting a much bigger view, thanks to a 120,000-square-foot Museum of African American History, which officials say is the nation's largest exhibition of its kind.

Since its opening last Saturday, the museum has attracted tens of thousands of visitors - 30,000 in its first three days - to see such artifacts as astronaut Mae Jemi-son's flight suit, a replica of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birmingham, Ala., jailhouse door, and a ballot box for "colored people."

Ten-year-old Gregory Wright was struck during his visit Thursday by an exhibit honoring black inventors such as Garrett Morgan Jr., who introduced the gas mask used in World War I and the stop light in 1923.

"I feel proud of all the people who have made African-Americans something," he said. "We have shown we can do things if you let us."

Also featured is a walk-through replica of a slave ship. Cast figures of 50 Detroit students depict Africans in the ship's hold.

The museum also has a 317-seat theater, an amphitheater, three classrooms and a research library.

The museum is a few miles north of downtown, in an area that includes Wayne State University and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The $38.4 million construction cost was paid for largely through the sale of city bonds. Corporate contributions paid for some of the exhibits.

Vice President Al Gore visited while in Detroit for an empowerment zone conference and said the museum has "a healing power that's quite dramatic."