The Business Narrative: Duke Endowment Grant

The International African American Museum (IAAM) in Charleston, South Carolina, is the recent recipient of a $1 million grant from The Duke Endowment, the largest private foundation in the Southeast.

The grant includes $750,000 in unrestricted funding and $250,000 for the museum’s endowment.

The latest gift follows a $1.25 million donation from The Duke Endowment in 2020, prior to the opening of the museum. It comes just months after the museum was named one of the Top Ten Best New Museums in the nation.

Since its opening in June 2023, IAAM has welcomed more than 135,000 visitors.

“Both of these accolades are signals of the museum’s growing popularity,” said Tonya Matthews, IAAM president and CEO. “This $1 million donation from The Duke Endowment signifies a pivotal moment for the International African American Museum. This milestone underscores the museum’s appeal to significant donors and acts as a powerful catalyst for future philanthropy.”

She added, “A museum’s first three years are critical to its development. These are the years when an institution’s foundation is solidified, and the way is paved for sustained success and broader impact. As the museum furthers its mission, from curating new exhibitions to engaging school groups and building community ties, the indispensable role of substantial donations becomes increasingly clear.”

Matthews said contributions of all sizes — be it $25 or millions — are vital. 

“The museum’s ability to realize its full potential hinges on continuous major investments from individuals, corporations, and foundations,” she said.

Rhett Mabry, president of The Duke Endowment, recently visited the museum with endowment trustees and staff and said, “The International African American Museum has proven to be a beacon of education, understanding, and cultural enrichment since its opening, attracting visitors from across the nation and around the world.”

Mabry added, “The Duke Endowment is proud to support this groundbreaking institution with a $1 million grant as it furthers its mission to illuminate the African American experience, foster meaningful dialogues, and inspire future generations.”

Based in Charlotte and established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke, The Duke Endowment is a private foundation that strengthens communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds, and enriching spirits.

Since its founding, it has distributed $4.5 billion in grants. The Endowment shares a name with Duke University and Duke Energy, but all are separate organizations.

The International African American Museum (IAAM) explores the history, culture, and impact of the African American journey on Charleston, the nation, and the world, shining light and sharing stories of the diverse journeys, origin, and achievements of descendants of the African Diaspora.

Across 11 galleries and a memorial garden with art, objects, artifacts, and multi-media interaction, IAAM is a champion of authentic, empathetic storytelling of American history. Officials said the museum will stand as one of the nation’s newest platforms for the disruption of institutionalized racism as it evolves today. 

The mission of IAAM is to honor the untold stories of the African American journey at the historically sacred site of Gadsden’s Wharf and beyond.

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