‘Topping off’ ceremony held for International African American Museum

Local News

Charleston, S.C. – WCBD – After 20 years of planning the last steel beam was placed on top of what will be the International African American Museum.

The museum is being built on Gadsen’s Wharf in downtown Charleston, a place many enslaved Africans once entered the United States.

Chief Operating Officer for the International African American Museum Dr. Elijah Heyward III says today has been generations in the making.

“I think it’s just an amazing opportunity that we have to really honor stories untold and both ones that we really need to remember,” Heyward mentioned.

The project began twenty years ago under former Charleston City Mayor Joe Riley.

“The need for this museum is undeniable. We have much work to do and much money to raise before the doors of this museum open and we invite everyone to be part of this journey,” said Riley.

The ‘topping off’ ceremony is a construction tradition that dates back to the eighth century to celebrate between groundbreaking and ribbon cutting. Dale Collier, President of Brown Stone Construction Group, says the ceremony includes attaching the flag and a tree to the beam.

“It suggests that we originated from nature and our souls will return to the trees after death, giving each tree a spirit of their own,” Collier stated.

Community members were able to sign the beam, including young children.

“Having them come and being so excited about signing the beam… I just think about them running through the museum and our future and the opportunity that we have to really expand minds and get people excited about black history in America.”

Dr. Elijah Heyward III, Chief Operating Officer for the International African American Museum

Construction for the museum began January 2020. It is set to open in 2022.

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