CEO of the International African American Museum: We need to seize control of our identity

theGrio | 3/18/2017, 12:37 p.m.
A new $75 million dollar museum is being built in Charleston, South Carolina, and it’s working to help African-Americans see ...
Michael Boulware Moore, CEO of the International African American Museum, talks about the museum's opening in 2019. (IAAM)

A new $75 million dollar museum is being built in Charleston, South Carolina, and it’s working to help African-Americans see their history and the world in an impactful way.

The International African American Museum (IAAM) will open in 2019. It will join a growing list of African-American history museums across the country, from the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C.

The man leading the charge is CEO Michael Boulware Moore, a former advertising executive. Moore is the great-great grandson of famous abolitionist and Civil War hero Robert Smalls — who escaped slavery and went back to purchase the plantation he lived on. Smalls eventually became becoming a South Carolina Congressman during the Reconstruction Era.

Moore spoke with theGrio.com about the growing excitement around the museum’s opening, the special meaning of Charleston for the site, and how social justice is inspiring the work.

A new $75 million dollar museum is being built in Charleston, South Carolina, and it’s working to help African-Americans see their history and the world in an impactful way.

The International African American Museum (IAAM) will open in 2019. It will join a growing list of African-American history museums across the country, from the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C.

The man leading the charge is CEO Michael Boulware Moore, a former advertising executive. Moore is the great-great grandson of famous abolitionist and Civil War hero Robert Smalls — who escaped slavery and went back to purchase the plantation he lived on. Smalls eventually became becoming a South Carolina Congressman during the Reconstruction Era.

Moore spoke with theGrio.com about the growing excitement around the museum’s opening, the special meaning of Charleston for the site, and how social justice is inspiring the work.

theGrio: What is the end goal you have for this museum? What sort of changes are you hoping this epicenter will inspire in the African-American community, especially amongst black youth?

MBM: I think, at the end of the day, the International African American Museum (IAAM) has a unique opportunity to raise consciousness within the black community, particularly with youth around issues of identity and our place in this country. People of African descent have made enormous contributions in the building of America. In fact, America wouldn’t be America without us! But, we haven’t always had control of the narrative of our history. The IAAM will be a meaningful piece of a broader puzzle that seeks to help us shape those stories and share them within our community and with the world.

For example, our nation is really not that old, but Charleston was the richest city in the country for over one hundred years — not just because of the back-breaking labor of enslaved people but also because of the ingenuity and technology that they brought with them — of how to create and manage a rice industry, for example. There was no rice industry in America before the enslaved Africans brought it here and, as a result, it created enormous wealth and built cities like Charleston. So, I want to tell these stories and further extend African-American history throughout America, which I hope will have a direct impact on black youth but also on broader America in understanding a fuller articulation of its history.