$75 million black history museum envisioned in SC

Rendering of the museum.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP/WCIV) -- A $75 million International African American Museum is now planned for Charleston near the point where tens of thousands of slaves once arrived in the city.

Mayor Joe Riley and museum organizers announced Wednesday the latest plans for the museum first proposed a decade ago.

Riley said money for the project will come from the city, county and state as well as contributions. The building will be built near the South Carolina Aquarium and adjoin the property of the National Park Service and the Fort Sumter National Park Site. The City and the IAAM will work with the National Park Service to redesign Liberty Square to recognize Gadsden's Wharf.

"Most important, the IAAM will help facilitate the beginning of a dialogue or level of communication that can bring with it understanding, appreciation, peace and a sense of reconciliation for the residents of our city, our state and even our country. It's an institution whose time has come, and there is no better place to build it than in Charleston," states Wilbur Johnson, the IAAM Board Chair.

When the museum was first proposed, a larger, but less expensive, $37 million facility was envisioned.

Riley said the last decade has been spent in research to better tell the stories of blacks from the time they were brought from Africa as slaves to Charleston through the present day.

"I know America is increasingly interested in African American history finally being presented. For us to understand who we are as Americans and how our country came to be, it is important to understand the history of the arrival of African Americans and their role in helping to build our country and its institutions," Riley said.

On Oct. 22, the Charleston City Council unanimously voted in favor of awarding a $12.5 million revenue bond to the IAAM. The funding will be provided through tourism industry revenues. The City and the IAAM will also seek funding from Charleston County.

"I am in 100 percent support of this historical project and am honored to be a part of our region making national history," said Charleston County Council chair Teddy Pryor.

Museum construction is estimated to begin January 2016 and be completed in January 2018.


  • Dennis W. Archer

Served on Michigan Supreme Court, former Mayor of Detroit, 1st African American President of American Bar Association

  • Jeanne Moutoussamy Ashe

Arthur Ashe's widow, photographer

  • Bruce Babbitt

Former United States Secretary of Interior and Governor of Arizona

  • David Beasley

Former South Carolina Representative and Governor of South Carolina, Chairman-Center for Global Strategies

  • Peg Breen

President NYC Landmarks Conservancy, board member-Ellis Island and Governors Island

  • Lonnie Bunch

Founding Director-Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History, served on President{} George W. Bush Commission for the Preservation of the White House

  • Marvin Chernoff

Former advertising/public relations executive

  • James Clyburn

United States Representative, 1st African American in Congress from South Carolina since Reconstruction, founder of The James E. Clyburn Research and Scholarship Foundation, elected pres. of his NAACP youth chapter when he was 12 years old

  • Pat Conroy

Best-selling author, Citadel alum

  • Morris Dees

Co-founder/Chief trial counsel-Southern Poverty Law Center, awarded the ABA Medal-their highest honor

  • David Dinkins

Former Mayor of NYC, 1st and only African American to hold that position, Professor-Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs

  • Howard DodsonDirector-Howard University Library, former director-Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, heavy involvement with African Burial Ground Project
  • Don FowlerFormer National Chair-DNC, Citadel Professor-Urban Politics, Fowler Communications
  • Harvey Gantt

Architect, 1st African American student at Clemson, former Mayor of Charlotte-their 1st African American mayor

  • Marcia Hale

President, Building America's Future Education Fund, Assistant to President Clinton and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House

  • Jim Hodges

Former Governor of South Carolina, advisor/partner McQuire Woods

  • J. Mac Holladay

Founder/CEO-Market Street Services, Charleston and SC Chamber of Commerce

  • Walter F. Johnson

Retired Army Brigadier General, former defense contractor

  • John Lewis

United States Representative, one of the "Big Six" of Civil Rights movement

  • Jon Meacham

Pulitzer award winning author, Executive Editor-Random House, former co-host-PBS

  • Marc H. Morial

President/CEO-National Urban League, former Mayor of New Orleans, appointed to President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability

  • Robert Moses

Educator, leader in Civil Rights movement, founder of The Algebra Project

  • Phylicia Rashad

Nationally acclaimed actress, 1st African-American actress to win Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play

  • Richard W. Riley

Former United States Secretary of Education, former SC Governor, Partner-Nelson Mullins law firm, honorary co-chair-World Justice Party

  • Cokie Roberts

Journalist, author, political commentator, recipient Edward R. Murrow Award, appointed by President George W. Bush to Council on Service and Civic Participation

  • Steve Roberts

Cokie's husband, journalist, writer, political commentator, Professor of journalism and political communication at the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs

  • Kurt Schmoke

Dean, Howard University Law School, former Mayor of Baltimore-their 1st African American mayor, Rhodes Scholar, former Assistant US Attorney, part of President Carter's Domestic Policy Staff

  • Cleveland Sellers

President, Voorhees College, former Director-African American Studies Program at USC, only person convicted/jailed during the 1968 Orangeburg Massacre, rec'd full pardon 25 years later

  • Henry Tisdale

President, Claflin University, NAACP Award-Educator of the Year, American Council on Education Commission on Effective Leadership

  • Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, WWII concentration camp survivor, recipient-Nobel Peace, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal, and Legion of Honor, Professor of religion-Boston University, author

  • William Winter

Former Governor of Mississippi, The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation on the Univ. of Miss. at Oxford, former member of President Clinton's Advisory Board on Race, special counsel in Jones Walker law firm's Government Relations Practice Group

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