International Black History Museum Opens At Former Slave Port

The International African American Museum, Charleston, South Carolina. Photo: International African American Museum/Twitter

John Oyewale Contributor
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The International African American Museum was privately dedicated Saturday in downtown Charleston, according to a local news report.

The reportedly well-attended event featured community members as well as local and national leaders, according to the WCSC news. The South Carolina museum stands on the grounds of Gadsden’s Wharf, the same place where about 100,000 Africans were once delivered and enslaved. The $120 million, 150,000-square-foot (14,000-square-meter), nine-gallery edifice contains exhibits and artifacts exploring how the labor, perseverance, resistance and cultures of African Americans shaped the Carolinas, the United States and the world, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Former president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama joined in with a video message, according to the WCSC news report. “It’s a powerful museum, one that every American can learn something from. It’s an important part of our collective history,” Mr. Obama said. Mrs. Obama, in her remarks, said the “museum will paint a bigger, broader, more complex picture of where we’ve come from and who we are as a nation today.” (RELATED: Unknown Dinosaur Fossil Discovered In Museum’s Archives)

The mission of the museum is to share the untold stories of African American history, according to the WCSC news report.

The museum was in the works for over two decades, thanks to former Charleston mayor Joseph Riley, who was inspired by the National Book Award-winning nonfiction, “Slaves In The Family,” the report said. Speaking at the event, Riley said the truth about the history of the United States “sets us free — free to understand, free to respect and free to appreciate the whole spectrum of our shared history.”

South Carolina Democrat Congressman Jim Clyburn, who also helped establish the museum, spoke at the ceremony of “resistance to enslavement, triumphs over Jim Crow and significant contributions to the greatness of this country.”

The museum’s president and CEO, Dr. Tonya Matthews, spoke of the museum’s location as a “hallowed site” and of reclaiming and reimagining a piece of it “as a space to tell one of the greatest stories of human struggle and triumph of all time. We are here to place that African American story in its full context from 300 BCE to 2023 and counting,” per the report.

There were poetry readings, music performances, dance, a watch party and the showcasing of local African American businesses.

The museum will be open to the public Tuesday as a site of homecoming and pilgrimage for African Americans, per the AP news report.