Charleston Naval Base pledges $11 million to African-American museum

posted by Patrick Phillips, Digital Content Manager - 

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

The Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority's board unanimously approved an $11 million donation to the International African American Museum.

“The IAAM will tell an important part of our nation’s history,” RADM William L. Schachte, Jr. (USN) (Ret.) said. “Part of our mission at the Charleston RDA is to help revitalize the Tri-County area. The IAAM will certainly impact our region and communities well beyond South Carolina, in a positive way.”

In 1994, the South Carolina Legislature created the Charleston RDA to redevelop the Charleston Naval Complex and revitalize the surrounding communities after the federal government announced the impending closure of the complex. At the time of closing, more than 6,000 civilians and more than 8,000 military personnel worked on site. 

It is the latest of several big donations the planned museum has received. In July, the Texas-based Fluor Foundation pledged a half-million dollars. In April, BMW said it would invest $1 million.

Lowcountry entrepreneur Carolyn Hunter pledged $500,000 to the museum in December and Darla Moore donated $1 million back in October. Other sizable pledges include $10 million from the Lilly Foundation and $500,000 from the founders of BenefitFocus.

The Board of Architectural Review granted final approval in March 2017 for the design of the downtown museum set to be built along Charleston Harbor.

Once built, the $75 million museum will sit on what was once Gadsden's Wharf near the Maritime Center. According to historians, around forty percent of enslaved Africans arrived in America at Gadsden’s Wharf. Museum CEO Michael Moore said the museum’s design pays tribute to that history.

According to Moore, the design includes plans for galleries featuring the "Atlantic Connection," as well as an opportunity for individuals to discover their own personal history.

“The museum will tell the African American history from 1670 when the first enslaved came here to the present and then the center for family history will leverage genealogical resources," Moore said during a March 2017 interview. 

Moore said the diversity of cultures will also be featured. 

The idea for the museum was first conceived by Charleston's former Mayor Joseph P. Riley in 2000. Moore said Riley continues to help with fundraising efforts.

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