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Announced in 2000, the International African American Museum is Finally Set to Open in Charleston, South Carolina


After more than two decades of planning, the International African American Museum (IAAM) announced it will open to the public the weekend on Jan. 21, 2023.

The museum is located in Charleston, South Carolina, at the former site of Ghadsen’s Wharf, once one of the nation’s foremost slave ports.

IAAM’s mission is “to honor the untold story of the African American journey at one of America’s most sacred sites, and the long-awaited institution is poised to take this next step in delivering on this promise,” according to a press release.

“I am proud to have worked with our incredible team to get this museum to opening day. This museum will be a must-see space of courageous curiosity and authentic engagement with our nation’s history – with African American history,” Dr. Tonya Matthews, president and CEO of the International African American Museum, said in a statement.

“Committed reckoning with history is a necessary stop on the road to healing and reconciliation,” Matthews continued. “Charleston is a port city, a global city, a historic city – and there is no better place for our museum to steward these stories that have such national and international significance and impact.”  

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The museum was first announced in 2000 by Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. It boasts nine exhibition galleries, a genealogy center, an African Ancestors Memorial Garden designed by renowned architect Waiter Hood and more.

“Our journey has been long because it took time to secure the optimal site. A site that is called ‘sacred’ because it is precisely where so many enslaved Africans arrived in our country, and many died here,” Riley said. “It took time to raise the resources, assemble the team, and plan every detail that would enhance the experience of being here. And it took time because we have been committed to excellence.” 

Iconic historian and scholar Henry Louis Gates said Charleston is the perfect city for such a museum.

Gates stated, “48.1% of all the African slaves who came to the United States entered this country through Charleston. So, for blackness, black culture, the African experience, the African American experience, slavery – however you want to slice it – this is ground zero. I think 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.”

The museum said it would release more information leading up to its opening. In the meantime, interested patrons can become charter members by clicking here.

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