Charleston Black history museum to provide context for racial protests

Charleston Black history museum to provide context for racial protests


By Jayne O'Donnell and Amora Campbell, Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts

June 30, 2020


CHARLESTON, S.C. – Amid COVID-19, protests against police brutality and the fifth anniversary of the mass killing of churchgoers here, a museum focused on the roots of African American enslavement could seem like an afterthought.

Elijah Heyward III respectfully disagrees.

“Our mission in part is to share untold stories of the African American journey that started beyond America, a journey that has impacted our country in profound ways,” said Heyward, chief operating officer of the prospective International African American Museum (IAAM) in Charleston. “Our goal is to learn lessons from the past that continue to inform our future and offer context for times like this.”

Nearly 20 years in the making, the International African American Museum is being built on Gadsden’s Wharf, a debarkation point for the African people brought to the USA during the peak of the international slave trade in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Despite some setbacks in fundraising brought on by the pandemic, the IAAM remains on track to open in early 2022.

The museum will include resources for tracing African American genealogy, including a “one of a kind” Center for Family History that is up and running on the IAAM website. A tutorial on the special challenges and opportunities afforded to African Americans by DNA tracing is available. Another focus will be on the religious, fraternal and cultural organizations formed in reaction to the enslavement experience.

Contributing: Richard Willing and Rhea Warren 

Read the full story on USA Today.