By Barney Blakeney
In the past two weeks the effort to build the International African American Museum in Charleston has been boosted by donations of nearly $12 million. The project needs less than $10 million to begin construction scheduled to start early next year.
Nearly half of all enslaved Africans forced to America through the Transatlantic Slave Trade arrived in Charleston, and the vast majority disembarked at Gadsden’s Wharf, the future home of the International African American Museum. The IAAM, a museum, memorial and site of conscience, will present unvarnished history and culture, commemorate and celebrate the foundational role that Africans and their descendants played in the making of America. It will include immersive, interactive exhibits engaging to all ages and feature the Center for Family History, a genealogy archive that will help visitors identify their individual threads in the complex tapestry of history.
Project coordinators are emphasizing the importance of support from the African American community. In 2000 former Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley presented the concept for the museum originally estimated to cost about $60 million. The project’s cost has increased to about $75 million. A lot of that has been raised from large donors who include government entities and corporate donors.
IAAM President /CEO Michael B. Moore said the project this week will launch its charter membership program that gives individuals the opportunity to support the effort. Board of Directors member, College of Charleston History Prof. Bernard Powers said it is important that the Black community supports the project. Over the next weeks and months Moore will continue presenting the value of the project to groups, churches and organizations. “We’re now at the point where we’re talking about more people getting involved,” he said. In the coming months more focus will be placed on grassroots participation and support.
Support from the African American community already has been significant, Moore said. He’s excited that more opportunities will be forthcoming for increased support from individuals. Beginning at the $25 level, individuals will get the opportunity to contribute to the IAAM’s growth and development, he said.
“Millions of dollars have been raised from African American sources,” Moore said. Some individuals have committed six-figure and seven-figure amounts. “Hopefully thousands more individuals will contribute through annual charter memberships which allow participation at different levels,” he said. To do that, individuals can go to the IAAM’s website at www.iaamuseum.org.