The stories of African Americans are the stories of Charleston. They are the stories of South Carolina. Of America.
And it is hard to imagine a more important and profound place to tell those stories than at Gadsden’s Wharf on the eastern edge of the Charleston peninsula, where as many as 100,000 African slaves first set foot on American soil in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Some estimates suggest that as many as 40 percent of all slaves brought to the country entered through Charleston.
Those slaves built much of the historic city as it still stands today. They shaped the economy of South Carolina. They and their free descendants have made innumerable contributions to culture, cuisine, science, literature, sports, politics and more. They fought in wars and raised families and led marches and shaped lives.
It is time for Charleston to build a home for those stories and a place to remember and celebrate those contributions. In order to do so, the state will need to fulfill its financial commitment to the International African American Museum by allocating $5 million in this year’s budget.
The Senate’s version of the budget includes that funding. The House’s currently does not. Legislators should fully appropriate the funds when they return to work on the budget.
The IAAM, with an overall $75 million budget shared between the state, local governments and private donors, won’t be the country’s only museum focused on the unique history of black Americans. But it will offer a relevance of place and living history impossible to duplicate elsewhere.
The remaining $6 million in expected state contributions can be paid out over the next two budgetary years in order to keep the museum’s construction on schedule, according to former Mayor Joe Riley, one of the project’s biggest backers.
By breaking ground in 2018, the museum…