The future International African American Museum announced its largest donation yet Tuesday.
Museum President and CEO Michael Moore announced the $10 million gift from Lilly Endowment in a press conference. The pledge is the largest single private donation for the proposed $75 million facility in Charleston. The Lilly Endowment is an Indiana-based nonprofit with financial ties to the pharmaceutical corporation Eli Lilly and Company.
“This incredibly generous gift, and most significant investment, from one of America’s most respected organizations is such an incredibly powerful endorsement for this museum,” former Charleston mayor Joe Riley said. Riley said he personally reached out to the group through his connections with the mayor of Indianapolis.
The donation will be split into different missions. $5 million will go towards construction work on the museum itself, while $4 million will help create an endowment to support research work on African-American spirituality. The remaining $1 million will help pay for changing exhibits on religion and music and faith-based community engagements.
Riley said the Lilly Endowment often focuses on Christianity as part of its grants. “You cannot tell African-American history without the role of faith and religion,” he said, recalling a conversation with the endowment’s president. “Those of us who grew up in the South know the power of the church.”
Moore said the donation means the museum is only about $9 million away from securing all the private funding needed for the $75 million facility. State legislators have set aside $14 million so far, but halted any future funding until museum organizers could commit to paying its share. The city of Charleston and Charleston County have also pledged $25 million.
The museum is scheduled to open in 2020. It will be located at Gadsden Wharf, where incoming captive West African slaves were first brought into the South.