The International African American Museum has completed its initial fundraising goal, effectively clearing the way for a groundbreaking early next year.

The final pledge came from Herbert L. Drayton III, a Charleston native and the CEO and president of Vertical Holdings, a medical investment company based in North Charleston. Drayton committed $125,000 to the museum’s $25 million private fundraising goal.

Charleston County and the City of Charleston have contributed another $25 million in total, while the State of South Carolina’s $25 million pledge was rounded out last week with an $11 million commitment from the Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority.

The museum is set to open by April 2021 at Gadsden’s Wharf on the Cooper River where almost half of all enslaved Africans forced to come to America disembarked.

Former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, who led the city for 40 years, first proposed the museum during an inaugural address in 2000.

“When I first announced the dream to build this institution 18 years ago – it was just that — a dream,” Riley, an IAAM board member, said in a statement released Thursday. “Thanks to all those who believed in the value and necessity of this museum, it is now more than a dream, it will soon become a reality.”

Drayton’s contribution is all the more significant considering his family’s history.

A veteran of the Air Force and Marine Corps Reserves, Drayton’s ancestors arrived through Gadsden’s Wharf and were once enslaved at Middleton Place, a plantation that is now a popular tourist destination in West Ashley.

The museum will now shift its focus to two other fundraising goals: an $8 million effort to support programs and curation for the Center for Family History and a $6 million effort to grow the museum’s current endowment to $10 million.

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