Today, the International African American Museum (IAAM) announced a $250,000 leadership investment from Charleston businessman and philanthropist Michael R. Bennett and his company, Bennett Hospitality.
The generous pledge to the museum’s fundraising campaign will help propel the IAAM toward its goal as it raises the final $19 million in private philanthropy needed to meet the $75 million budget to create the institution.
“For decades, Mike has been a leader in business and philanthropy in the Lowcountry and in the state of South Carolina,” said Joe Riley, former Charleston mayor and IAAM board member. “We are honored to receive this impactful investment and to work with Mike and Bennett Hospitality to make the International African American Museum a reality.”
The museum, slated to break ground in early 2018 if the $75 million is raised, will be constructed on the historic site of Gadsden’s Wharf on the Charleston harbor. Nearly half of all enslaved Africans entered America in Charleston, and the vast majority disembarked at Gadsden’s Wharf. The IAAM will explore African cultures and civilizations, detail the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its ramifications, and celebrate the myriad contributions that African Americans have made to American society.
“We are gaining momentum in our final fundraising efforts,” said Wilbur Johnson, chairman of the IAAM board. “Mike’s generous contribution moves us even closer to meeting our goal and breaking ground at the beginning of next year.”
The gift will be recognized in the Live Oak Grove in the museum’s African Ancestors Memorial Garden, a collection of gardens and artistic installations that sprawl across the IAAM grounds. The museum will be raised to provide room for these dynamic land linguistics and to commemorate the sacred location of Gadsden’s Wharf.
The oak trees will be planted young and will mature with the museum over the coming years, providing a beautiful canopy and welcome shade for guests.
About the IAAM:
The International African American Museum (IAAM) at Gadsden’s Wharf will be a unique center of learning where individuals, families and groups will advance their understanding and appreciation of American History, particularly the role of African Americans in creating the country known today. Standing at the primary site of enslaved Africans’ entry into North America, IAAM at Gadsden’s Wharf will afford a distinct opportunity to convey the shared and individual journeys of African Americans as part of the American narrative.
- IAAM at Gadsden’s Wharf will include immersive, interactive exhibits and multimedia experiences for visitors of all ages. There will be an active changing exhibit program highlighting such subjects as the Gullah Geechee Community; African Origins; African American Spiritual, Music and Food Ways; African American Literature; and The Era of Jim Crow. There will also be family gatherings, music and dance programs, public lectures, readings and a variety of other learning opportunities for audiences of all ages.
- IAAM at Gadsden’s wharf will include a “Family History Center” where individuals and families will advance the exploration of their own personal histories through DNA testing and analysis and research assisted by family history counselors.
- IAAM at Gadsden’s Wharf will be a gateway to historic sites in South Carolina’s Lowcountry important to African American History including Magnolia Planation, Middleton Gardens, The Avery Center, The Penn Center, Aiken Rhett House and the Slave Market Museum.
- IAAM at Gadsden’s Wharf will be a national and international resource and a significant addition to the cultural, educational and economic assets of Charleston, the Lowcountry, and South Carolina.