“I Rise”: Reflections on the International African American History Museum

SouthState employee at the International African American Museum
The doors of the International African American Museum open onto a rich history of tragedy and triumph, joy and sorrow, perseverance and poetry. SouthState Bank honored this legacy with a $125,000 donation and an invitation to its employees to visit the museum free of charge. Many of our bankers visited the museum in 2023, some to educate themselves on stories left out of history books and others to reflect on traditions passed down from great-grandparents.

No matter their personal history, each departed with a wealth of insight and a challenge to continue learning about the African American experience. iaam-01.jpg Located at historic Gadsden’s Wharf in Charleston, South Carolina, where many African Americans first arrived in this country, the IAAM shines a well-deserved spotlight on artistic contributions, cultural traditions and groundbreaking research given to us by African Americans. It uses large-scale digital media to show the beauty of the African American story, offering a modern take on centuries of tragedy and triumph.

As they walked through the exhibits, team members found themselves moved to tears by the personal stories shared. Several shared their reflections on what they gained by visiting this historic place of remembrance.
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I really enjoyed learning more about the Gullah-Geechee culture, as well as walking through the comprehensive historical timeline that encompasses about half the museum ... The museum has a tremendous amount of information and history, so I highly recommend allotting at least a couple of hours in order to get the full experience. – Dallas M Covington, Director of Business Initiatives iaam-03.jpg From the moment I arrived, I could tell the Museum was a safe and sacred place. Everything in the museum was thoughtfully put together. I learned things I never knew. I left with a heavy heart, but also with joy in my heart because African Americans are overcomers. They have overcome so much pain, grief and mistreatment, and they have fought hard to bring equality to this world. – Tanya Isaman, Director of Credit Services
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I left with hope that as we work together for change, there will one day be a world where everyone is treated equally.

Tanya Isaman, Director of Credit Services

At times I cried, smiled and I turned my head away because it was too much; at times, I was in awe and held my head up high with pride. The experience for me was an awakening and a reminder of how important it is to remember and acknowledge the sacrifice of our ancestors so we can have better. The exhibits, relics, testimonials and the garden all bring you back in time, but then you see the fast forward of those who have shared in the push for better for our country with equality and equity for all people. To share the moments with my co-workers from all races and ethnicities and to know we were one in our feelings meant everything. The museum reminded me that each of us walking TOGETHER and speaking for better TOGETHER breaks down walls. – Sonia Hanson, Charleston Magwood Branch Manager iaam-04.jpg Overall, it was very impactful to see how this population arrived in South Carolina and the life they were able to build. Learning about cultures, and the struggles they face is very interesting and inspiring. – Amy Vincent, Commercial Line of Business Operations Manager

While touring the museum, I found myself drawn to watching other visitors. Our impactful stories seemed to have a profound effect on them, and I was able to witness them sit with their emotions. I believe they were able to feel a little bit of what Black people have always felt. They realized how the horrors of slavery impacted not people of another race, but their fellow humans. – Sedrick McCallum, Community Development Officer iaam-02.jpg The IAAM is incredibly curated and beautifully done. The space itself has a very sacred presence, one that beckons you to tread lightly and respectfully. The stories, images, artifacts, and flow are emotionally impacting. There was one artifact, that for me that I simply can’t shake, the story of Rose and her daughter Ashley ... These stories go on and on. There is so much to take in, being there for a little over an hour was simply not enough time. – Jamie Kerr, Director of Commercial Administration

The International African American Museum is an amazing learning journey of an African culture that was brought to America through the captivity of slave ships. The IAAM is beautifully designed and contains many images and artifacts that support a powerful story of people’s survival. It is without a doubt an emotional experience. If you are visiting Charleston, I encourage you to take the time to experience the IAAM. – Dena Kapperman, Senior Communications Manager

Learn more about the IAAM, special programming and upcoming exhibits.

See more details about SouthState’s Corporate Stewardship, including its Diversity & Inclusion initiatives.

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