International African American Museum To Open Its Doors In Charleston, South Carolina

International African American Museum To Open Its Doors In Charleston, South Carolina

The long-awaited International African American Museum will finally open its doors later this month, and the city of Charleston, South Carolina, is preparing for an emotional week.

After having to push back its plans for its grand opening to coincide with the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the IAAM will open to the public on Tuesday, June 27. The $120 million project has been in the works for more than two decades and required unwavering support from leaders in the city of Charleston.

The location of the museum is central to the story of enslaved Africans who crossed the Atlantic to Gadsden’s Wharf, overlooking Charleston Harbor, where many Black ancestors first encountered America. Before the museum’s official opening, the city’s residents can take part in a worship ceremony on June 22 and a dedication ceremony community gathering on June 24.

“As this magnificent new museum demonstrates, Charleston isn’t just a city where history happened — it’s a city where history is still being made every day,” John Tecklenburg, the mayor of Charleston, said in a statement. “I couldn’t be prouder of this extraordinary achievement.” For the museum, Henry N. Cobb, Walter Hood, and Ralph Appelbaum designed 100,000 square feet of space including nine galleries, a genealogy center, and a memorial garden, according to The New York Times.

Visitors can also expect to see work by the Malian photographer Seydou Keïta, local artist Fletcher Williams III, and a short project by legendary Daughters of the Dust filmmaker Julie Dash entitled Seeking. The video “re-interprets the coming-of-age traditions of the Gullah Geechee, the descendants of West Africans brought to the American Southeastern coast, into a narrative of resilience,” according to The New York Times. The museum will also be home to pottery by the enslaved artist David Drake.

Tonya Matthews, the museum’s president and chief executive, expects the grand opening of IAAM to be an emotional one, with the weight of the history of Black Americans very present within its walls. Employees have received training on how to console visitors who may find the gravity overwhelming. “There is a lot of emotion associated with this museum,” said Matthews. “Some folks have waited so long, and they thought this moment would never come. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry or shout or sing. You probably will want to get that all in.”