From Africa to America

Michael Boulware Moore heads efforts to build a new museum on slave-trade hallowed ground in Charleston.

Boulware standing on a dock Michael Boulware Moore at the museum site

Ninety-nine percent of African Americans have at least one ancestor who passed through Charleston, South Carolina. Almost half of all African captives arrived via that city, and nearly 80 percent of those passed through Gadsden’s Wharf specifically.

Gadsden’s Wharf will be the site of the new International African American Museum (IAAM), whose president/CEO is Michael Boulware Moore '84 BA (PSc). Before he joined IAAM in 2016, Moore was a successful brand-strategy executive, telling stories for clients like Coca-Cola and Kraft. Now he tells stories on behalf of the African diaspora, which he calls a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to blend my professional interests with the generations of commitment in my family around public service, African American history, and social justice.” The family history includes Moore’s great-great-grandfather, Robert Smalls, an enslaved man who commandeered a Confederate ship, delivered it to Union forces, and then fought for the North. As a free man, Smalls eventually returned to South Carolina and became a U.S. Congressman.

IAAM will focus on history on the spot where, for most African Americans, their American stories began. “We will commemorate their sacrifice and celebrate their contributions in the making of America,” says Moore. Plus it will connect to Africa, offering a genealogy research center where “visitors will fill in the gaps of their family trees and, via DNA testing, discover the specific place where their families originated.” The museum is scheduled to open in late 2020.

This article appeared in the spring 2018 print edition of Maxwell Perspective © Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail dlcooke@maxwell.syr.edu.