A $75 million International African American Museum will be built in South Carolina on Charleston Harbor where tens of thousands of slaves first set foot in the United States. "There is no better site," Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said today, standing on the waterfront tract where the 42,000-square-foot museum will be built. The site is near Gadsden's Wharf, the significance of which became evident as research for the museum was done, says Riley. The wharf was built by Revolutionary War patriot Christopher Gadsden and it's estimated that 40% of African slaves brought to the United States in the late 18th and early 19th centuries walked across it.
From 1803 to 1807, the final years of the international slave trade, more than 70,000 enslaved Africans were brought to the wharf at a time when Charleston's population was only 20,000. The first slaves arrived in Charleston in 1670, the same year the Carolina colony was founded. Riley said that in recent months, during discussions with museum architects, it was determined that, if possible, the museum should be built at the site. Ralph Appelbaum, who designed the exhibits for the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, is designing the exhibits for the museum, which was first proposed 13 years ago. The museum will tell the story of black Americans with the use of interactive displays and changing exhibits. Riley hopes construction can begin in 2016, with the museum opening two years later.