International African American Museum receives its largest donation in $10 Million Lilly Endowment grant

Today, the International African American Museum (IAAM) announced a $10 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

The most substantial investment from a private donor to date, the grant fortifies the museum in four ways: $5 million will support this institution’s design and construction through our Founders Fund; $4 million will be used to create an endowment; $500,000 will fund the museum’s inaugural changing exhibit on African-American religion and music; and $500,000 will be allocated to efforts to engage congregations and faith-based communities.

“This contribution, which comes to us here in the South from the Midwest, from one of our nation’s most esteemed foundations, resoundingly affirms the vital mission of the International African American Museum,” said Michael Boulware Moore, IAAM president and CEO.

A large portion of the grant – $4 million – will be used to create the IAAM’s endowment, which the museum hopes to grow to $25 million. Lilly Endowment’s $4 million will help fund ongoing activities with scholars, consultants and religious leaders to support curation and programming related to religion and spirituality.

“We are grateful that the grant from Lilly Endowment moves the IAAM closer to its historic groundbreaking,” said Joseph P. Riley Jr., former Charleston mayor and IAAM board member. “But we are equally grateful that the grant helps the museum begin to build an endowment that will ensure stability and longevity.”

Since its founding in 1937, Lilly Endowment has been committed to causes in education, community development and religion and has made grants to cultural institutions that foster a deeper public understanding of the role of religion in American life.

Lilly Endowment took an interest in the museum in part because of its unique location resting above the sacred ground of Gadsden’s Wharf, a site where hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans disembarked, taking their first steps into America.  Religion is an inescapable dimension of this story.

“The IAAM is establishing a museum and memorial gardens that will tell and preserve many important stories about the contributions of Americans of African descent to our national life,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion, “We are pleased that that the grant will support the IAAM in lifting up the role that religion and spirituality has played in shaping these stories and support outreach to religious communities.”

The IAAM is slated to break ground in early 2018 and open its doors to the public in 2020. For more information about the museum, please visit

Rendering of the International African American Museum’s exterior

1 Comment

  1. Rosa Bogar on October 4, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    “I’m happy for the future of the IAAM to the importance of telling Our story as it is to the connection to Charleston But t I’m most excited that I will be paying homage to my ancestors along with family members and others at the Gadsden’s Wharf on Saturday, Oct. 7th at 2pm. This is a long overdue tribute to the history of a people my People. Please join us much to be told and much to celebrated!!

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