The coming of the International African American Museum | Charleston’s Choice 2020

“People are known by the records they keep,” observed Pulitzer prize-winning writer and human rights activist Alice Walker. “If it isn’t in the record,” she continues, “it will be said that it did not happen. That’s what history is…a keeping of records.”

Walker’s dictum on the power of history and the utility of record-keeping and documentation has long inspired my philosophy as an educator, public historian and museum practitioner. For me, “keeping” African American history and culture, in particular, is not merely a vocation, it is a calling. The gravitational pull to document our stories for the next generation; to rescue our records and unvarnished truths from the atrophy of memory; and to “keep” our history for perpetuity is what drew me to the International African American Museum and ultimately to Charleston.

Before moving here two years ago, Charleston had long stood in my imagination as a charming city with

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