HISTORY COMES ALIVE
Of Trauma, Truth, and Triumph
The International African American Museum tells the unvarnished stories of the African American experience across generations, the trauma and triumph that gave rise to a resilient people.
IAAM’s own journey has involved many passionate people and carefully calibrated decisions — and a few impromptu ideas and unforseen discoveries. Explore how together they brought this institution to life over the course of more than two decades.
Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. is the first to publicly propose that the city tell its true history through a museum that illuminates long ignored and under-told stories of African American experiences.
A museum Steering Committee forms, with Congressman Jim Clyburn serving as its chair. Within two years, the committee names the museum the International African American Museum and expands the mission statement to deepen the impact of the burgeoning institution.
IAAM’s building design team is selected, with Pei Cobb Freed & Partners serving as design architects, Moody Nolan as the architect of record, and Ralph Applebaum Associates as exhibition designers.
IAAM’s National Advisory Board is formed. Among the distinguished Americans included are the late Civil Rights icon John Lewis; Pulitzer award winning author Jon Meacham; Phylicia Rashad, the first African American actress to win a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play, and many current and former elected officials.
Gadsden’s Wharf, a 2.3-acre waterfront plot on the eastern side of the Charleston peninsula, is secured as the future home of the museum. The historic site was the disembarkation point for tens of thousands of enslaved Africans brought to the U.S. from the late 1760s through 1808.
An archeological dig of Gadsden’s Wharf by Brockington and Associates uncovers wooden remains of the original 18th century wharf line, as well as timbers and the brick floor of a store house that was used to hold African captives before they were sold.
Museum receives its first $1 million donation, from Anita Zucker of Charleston, South Carolina.
The building design receives final approval from the City of Charleston. PEI Cobb Freed’s plans envision “floating” the museum building on pillars to honor the site’s significance as “hallowed ground” and acclaimed landscape architect Walter Hood (pictured) depicts a sweeping African Ancestors Memorial Garden below and surrounding the museum.
A $10 million donation from the Lilly Endowment endows a Director of Education and Engagement for Faith-Based Communities and catalyzes its faith-based initiatives program.
Museum decides to launch a groundbreaking resource for the study and advancement of African American genealogy, and work begins to form the Center for Family History.
Under the curatorial leadership of Joy Bivens, then director of museum planning and operations, the museum team decides that IAAM will be a collecting institution, allowing artifacts themselves to speak volumes to visitors.
Museum hosts inaugural Awakening the Ancestors event, a spiritual educational series that celebrates the rich musical heritage of the Gullah Geechee corridor.
The City of Charleston is designated a UNESCO “Routes of Enslaved Peoples” Site of Memory, and IAAM is chosen as the marker site. The international and inter-regional project addresses the history of the slave trade and slavery through the prism of intercultural dialogue, a culture of peace and reconciliation.
At the Museum’s groundbreaking on October 25, a community of supporters from across the state and country gather to celebrate the major milestone.
“The Seashore Farmers Lodge: Preserving the Past to Educate the Future,” IAAM’s first virtual exhibition, is launched in partnership with Google Arts and Culture. The collaborative digital experience shares the history and culture of Sol Legare Island, a rare surviving example of a largely African American community in the South Carolina Sea Islands.
Ashley’s sack, an embroidered cotton sack that tells a powerful family story, returns to South Carolina in preparation for its museum installation thanks to a long-term loan from Middleton Place.
With the support of more than 1,000 donors collectively raising $96 million, IAAM completes its capital campaign. The campaign is concluded with a major gift from Charleston businessman and investor Herbert Drayton III, an African American descendant of Middleton Place.
The Boeing Company
City of Charleston
Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Lilly Endowment Inc.
The Darla Moore Foundation
Rosalind and Jerry Richardson
Sony Group Corporation
State of South Carolina
Anita G. Zucker
$1 Million +
Bank of America
BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina
Coastal Community Foundation
Lynne Dobson and Greg Wooldridge
The Duke Endowment
Guffey Family Foundation
Susu and George Dean Johnson
Johnson Controls Foundation
George S. Loening
Michelin North America
City of North Charleston
Susan and Harry Frampton
The Gilder Foundation
Mary and Mason Holland and Jocelyn and Shawn Jenkins
Bill Horton and Mary Major
Jim and Kim Pallotta
Wells Fargo Foundation
Michael, Amy, and Jack Bennett
Jill and John Chalsty
Greystar Real Estate Partners
Sheila C. Johnson
Alison and Tom Schneider
M. Edward Sellers and Dr. Suzan D. Boyd
Sherman Financial Group
The Marva Smalls Endowment
Jessica and Todd Aaron
Ambassador J. Brady
Anderson and Mrs. Betty Anderson
Ascue Family Foundation
Bill and Valerie Barnet
The Beach Company
Hyman and Marietta Bielsky
The Boulé Foundation
Jedd and Dara Canty
Chapman Cubine Allen + Hussey
Charleston Harbor Benefactors Society
Charleston World Heritage Coalition, Stephen Ziff, Chair Family and Friends of Henry N. Cobb
Dr. N. Anthony and Robyn Coles
College of Charleston
The CWD3 Fund of Coastal Community Foundation
Herbert L. Drayton III
First Citizens Bank
Patrick Condon Ilderton
Martha Rivers Ingram
The Jaharis Family Foundation
Della and Clifton Jordan
William Kennard and Deborah Kennedy Kennard
Ambassador and Mrs. Philip Lader
Brenda Lauderback and Dr. Boyd Wright Lowe
The Maddux Family
Tom and Chris Motamed
Charles and Celeste Patrick
The Pearlstine Family Fund
Pisgah Investments Foundation
Robert Porcher III
Post and Courier Foundation
Bob and Greg Royall
Select Health of South Carolina
Halle Tecco and Jeff Hammerbacher