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International African American Museum receives largest donation to date

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The International African American Museum has received its largest private donation to date, which will fund design and construction of the museum, fund an exhibit and establish an endowment. The museum is scheduled to break ground early next year and open in 2020.  (Rendering/Provided)

The International African American Museum has received a $10 million grant, its largest private donation to date, from Lilly Endowment Inc.

The news comes on the heels of the museum's announcement of a $500,000 donation from Wells Fargo & Co.

Lilly Endowment is an Indianapolis-based foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family through gifts of stock in the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co. Lilly Endowment supports community development, religion and education efforts and projects.

“This contribution, which comes to us here in the South from the Midwest, from one of our nation’s most esteemed foundations, resoundingly affirms the vital mission of the International African American Museum,” said Michael Boulware Moore, president and CEO of the museum.

The donation will be used in four ways:

  • $5 million will fund design and construction of the museum.
  • $4 million will be used to create an endowment.
  • $500,000 will fund the inaugural changing exhibit on African-American religion and music.
  • $500,000 will be used in efforts to engage faith-based communities.

The $4 million endowment will support curation and programming related to religion and spirituality with scholars, consultants and religious leaders. Museum organizers hope to grow the endowment to $25 million.

“We are grateful that the grant from Lilly Endowment moves the IAAM closer to its historic groundbreaking,” board member and former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said. “But we are equally grateful that the grant helps the museum begin to build an endowment that will ensure stability and growth.”

The museum will be built at the former site of Gadsden’s Wharf, where the majority of enslaved African Americans entering the United States through Charleston disembarked during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

“The IAAM is establishing a museum and memorial gardens that will tell and preserve many important stories about the contributions of Americans of African descent to our national life,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We are pleased that that the grant will support the IAAM in lifting up the role that religion and spirituality has played in shaping these stories and support outreach to religious communities.”

The museum is scheduled to break ground in early 2018 and open to the public in 2020. Private funding is expected to cover $25 million of the $75 million project. The city of Charleston and Charleston County have contributed $25 million, and the state is expected to donate the rest, with $14 million committed so far.

Reach Patrick Hoff at 843-849-3144.

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