CHARLESTON, S.C. (May 10, 2019) – Yesterday evening, more than 300 people gathered at the College of Charleston to hear celebrated scholar Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., discuss his newest documentary, “Reconstruction: America After the Civil War.”
At the event, hosted by the International African American Museum (IAAM) with support from the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, guests viewed an excerpt from the new documentary and enjoyed a “Fireside Chat” between Dr. Gates and IAAM Chief Curator Joy Bivins.
Michael Boulware Moore, IAAM president and CEO, welcomed guests: “We have been fortunate to have Dr. Gates’ unwavering support as a member of the IAAM Advisory Board as we work to bring the International African American Museum to life. Dr. Gates has said that, ‘It’s very important that a great city in the south be the home of a great museum celebrating the achievements, the history and the culture of persons of African descent. And I can think of no place more ideal, no place more perfect, no place more appropriate than Charleston.’”
Dr. Gates discussed the critical importance of the Reconstruction era, which began as the Civil War ended and lasted from 1865 to 1877. He said that, “Reconstruction was about who gets to be American,” and explained that the roots of the racial tension and inequity our country continues to experience date back to Reconstruction. “We are going through now what happened before. We have been here before. We have to join together to keep our heads and not allow divisive forces to distract us.”
Dr. Gates noted Charleston’s central role in African American history: “I wanted to do an event in Charleston. This is the only event I asked for. Charleston was ground zero for Reconstruction.”
Dr. Gates also said that he was the last person to interview Senator Clementa Pinckney before he and eight other worshippers were murdered at Mother Emanuel in 2015. “I realized I needed to tell the story of Reconstruction for Clementa and the eight others, my book is dedicated them”
Joseph P. Riley, Jr., former Charleston mayor and lifetime IAAM board member, said that Dr. Gates has developed strong ties to Charleston. “Dr. Gates had the idea to create the Pinckney Scholars program after Mother Emanuel,” Riley said. “He reads every application, and because of him, young men and women from Senator Pinckney’s district have access to higher education. He is one of the most ardent supporters of the museum. When I call upon him he is always there.”
Photo credit: Alvin C. Jacobs, Jr.