Charleston philanthropist and business leader Ben Navarro, who reportedly wants to buy the Carolina Panthers, has pledged $250,000 for the International African American Museum, according to an announcement Thursday.
The donation is from Navarro and his company, Sherman Financial Group, a global investment company headquartered in Charleston. Navarro also founded Meeting Street Schools in 2008 on the belief that all children deserve an excellent education regardless of their geographic or socioeconomic circumstances.
Navarro is one of four bidders for the Panthers football team, according to The Charlotte Observer. Current owner Jerry Richardson announced in December that he'll sell the Charlotte-based NFL franchise after a Sports Illustrated report detailed allegations of sexual and racial misconduct against him.
"Ben has made a remarkable impact in South Carolina through his philanthropic endeavors, chiefly through his work with Meeting Street Schools," former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, a museum board member who announced the vision for the museum in 2000, said in a statement. "He cares deeply about our community and our state."
The museum will help teachers explain the nation's slave trade and will present the contributions that African civilizations have made to the world.
"In my experience with young people — both with students and my own four children — I have come to understand the paramount importance of great role models," Navarro said in the announcement. "The IAAM will do the important work of highlighting the stories of African American heroes, change-makers, artists and leaders — stories that will serve as an inspiration to children of all races for years to come."
Michael Boulware Moore, the museum's president and CEO, said he and the staff are "so proud to count Ben and his company among our supporters."
Construction of the $75 million museum is expected to start later this year by the Maritime Center, on the site of the former Gadsden's Wharf, where thousands of enslaved Africans were unloaded in the early 1800s.
Navarro's pledge leaves less than $2 million to meet the goal of raising $25 million in private donations. The rest of the money will come from city, county and state governments.