The International African American Museum (IAAM) has reached its $75 million Founders Fund goal. The funds were provided by three major sources: $25 million from the City and County of Charleston; $25 million from the State of South Carolina, $11 million of which was just granted by the Charleston Naval Redevelopment Complex; and $25 million from private philanthropy.
The private philanthropy funds were raised through donations and pledges from individuals, families, nonprofits, foundations, organizations and corporations that ranged from $100 to $10 million.
“On behalf of the International African American Museum, I want to extend my sincere gratitude to each and every donor who contributed to help us reach this milestone,” said Joseph P. Riley, Jr., IAAM board member and former Charleston mayor.
“When I first announced the dream to build this institution 18 years ago – it was just that – a dream. Something far off in the distance that I knew would require an incredible amount of work from countless people. Thanks to all those who believed in the value and necessity of this museum, it is now more than a dream, it will soon become a reality.”
“There are a number of people and organizations that will continue to consider investments in the design and construction of the museum,” Riley said. “Given the potential impact of inflation and tariffs affecting building materials, it is prudent that we remain dedicated to raising additional funds so that we can ensure the creation of a world-class institution.”
The IAAM is proud that a $125,000 pledge from Charleston native Herbert L. Drayton III was the gift that concluded the $75 million Founders Fund. Herbert, an entrepreneur who previously served in both the United States Air Force and the Marine Corp Reserves, grew up in Charleston on Reid Street. His ancestors, who were once enslaved at Middleton Place rice plantation, arrived at the former site of Gadsden’s Wharf, near the grassy fields where Herbert spent many long afternoons as a child playing baseball. Herbert has a long history of giving back to the community through his philanthropic work – he currently serves on the boards of the Coastal Community Foundation, One80 Place and Palmetto Goodwill, and is an advisory board member for the School of Business of Charleston Southern University.
“It is both fitting and meaningful to recognize Herbert’s pledge today,” said Michael Boulware Moore, IAAM president and CEO. “Herbert’s reasons for providing his support are many – in part because of his ancestral connection Gadsden’s Wharf, in part because he saw the crucial importance of presenting African American history in a cohesive, honest way, and in part because he saw the value of setting an example to encourage African American donors to join him in supporting the museum. Thanks to Herbert and to all of our generous donors, the big one is done,” Moore said referring to reaching the $75 million milestone, “and we have two to go. We are excited to embark on our next two fundraising efforts.”
The first is to raise $8 million to support programs – with an emphasis on education – curation and our Center for Family History. This will breathe life and vitality into this institution – fortifying its educational initiatives, developing engaging programming to benefit our community, and supporting the museum’s curatorial efforts. The second is to grow its endowment to $10 million, which will provide long-term support and stability to the museum. Thanks to the generosity of Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment, the IAAM’s endowment is currently $4 million. The additional $6 million will provide a strong, lasting foundation that will uphold the museum in perpetuity.
In the weeks ahead, the IAAM looks forward to providing additional details about these fundraising efforts. The museum expects to begin construction early next year.