Groundbreaking on the International African-American museum isn’t expected until next year, but a generous gift is inching those efforts closer.
On Tuesday, museum officials announced a $10 million donation to the museum’s construction fund from Lilly Endowment, Inc., a private, philanthropic foundation based in the Midwest.
“I’m proud to publicly announce today a gift from the Lilly Endowment for $10 million dollars to the International African American Museum,” said Michael Boulware Moore, president and CEO of the IAAM.
It’s the museum’s largest private-donation to date. Former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley was present for the announcement and said securing this grant was a process, which began two years and five months ago.
“I had heard the wonderful things about the quality of the endowment and their generosity,” Riley said. “We were determined to ask for$10 million, which kind of makes you gulp a little bit.”
To meet the criteria and nature of the grant, IAAM had to have religious appeal. Riley remembered his first meeting with the foundation’s president.
“I said ‘Mr. President, you cannot tell African American history without throwing faith and religion in it’,” Riley said. “We all know that, all of us who grew up in the South know the power of the church.”
The museum’s location at Gadsden’s Wharf is a place many consider a sacred site.
“It was the spot where 40%, the single-largest number of enslaved Africans who came to America took their first steps, including my great-great-great-great grandmother,” said Moore.
The $10 million donation now puts the museum $9 million shy of their goal within the private-fundraising sector. Groundbreaking is slated for early next year. It’s expected to be open to the public by Spring 2020.