Advocates for an African American Museum in Charleston have worked for years on what its focus should be and how it should present that important part of South Carolina's history.
It would reflect poorly on the whole state if those efforts were scuttled because a short-sighted Legislature fails to provide adequate financial support for the effort. Unfortunately, that's how things are looking right now. Fortunately, the budgeting process is just beginning.
Planners of the International African American Museum to be near the South Carolina Aquarium have asked the state for $25 million of the $75 million price tag - $12.5 million in the coming year and another $12.5 million the following year.
A subcommittee of the House of Representatives instead allocated only $250,000 - almost as if to demean the project.
Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Charleston, mentioned in an interview with Schuyler Kropf the irony of seeking support when "the NAACP insists on this silly little boycott" over the Confederate battle flag being flown on Statehouse grounds. Legislators can think what they want to about the boycott and the NAACP. But those thoughts should not diminish the significant role that South Carolina played in African American history - and the role that African Americans played in the history South Carolina and beyond.
Indeed, Wilbur Johnson, chairman of the museum's board, said potential donors around the state and the country do not consider the boycott a factor in their decision.
Records indicate that 40 percent of all enslaved Africans who came to North America entered through the port of Charleston. The state should do its part to tell that story. The pittance that has been budgeted, however, suggests that some legislators don't regard that chapter in its history as sufficiently important for their support. Surely, that's not the case.
Just last month the state projected an additional $108 million in revenue to be budgeted. Allocating some of that extra reveneu to the International African American Museum makes economic sense as well. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said the museum is expected to bring in $30 million in tourism dollars a year locally and more statewide.
And only in Charleston would such a museum have the advantage of multiple related sites that illustrate African American history - like Middleton Place, McLeod Plantation, the Aiken-Rhett House, Boone Hall and the old Slave Mart.
Further, solid support from the state can encourage other donors to step up. A reluctant Legislature could discourage private fund-raising.
A state that acknowledges its founding at Charlestowne Landing, its role in the Civil War and its artistic, agricultural and maritime heritage should also acknowledge its African-American history. It should approve funds requested for the cause.
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