Ruta Smith

A social-distanced group of supporters gathered Friday morning to mark a milestone in the construction of the International African American Museum at Gadsden's Wharf in downtown Charleston. The wharf is the site of the former port where thousands of enslaved Africans arrived in America at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Crews lifted the final steel beam of the museum into place Friday. Keeping with tradition, the beam bears the signatures of the crew and supporters, along with a tree.

“Every steel beam represents the hopes and dreams of citizens committed to building an institution that will impact the world,” said former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, who is also a lifetime member of the museum’s board of directors. "At this extraordinary moment when people across the country are confronting racial injustice in remarkable ways, including protest marches with unprecedented diversity, the need for this museum is undeniable."

Museum leaders have raised more than $75 million to fund the construction. The museum is expected to open in 2022. You can find a livestream of the topping-out ceremony on IAAM's Facebook.

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