Filmmaker Ken Burns to host lecture on race in America to benefit African-American Museum

Mayor Riley discusses special event at the Gaillard and life after retirement

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Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. announced an upcoming appearance by filmmakers Ken Burns and Henry Louis Gates Jr. to benefit the International African-American Museum - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. announced an upcoming appearance by filmmakers Ken Burns and Henry Louis Gates Jr. to benefit the International African-American Museum
Award-winning documentary filmmakers Ken Burns and Henry Louis Gates Jr. will host a special upcoming event at the Gaillard Center to raise funds for the proposed International African-American Museum.

Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. announced during a press conference Monday that he was contacted by Burns shortly after the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in June that claimed the lives of nine parishioners inside. During their conversations, the filmmaker offered to help the city in any way he could.

“I discussed with Ken Burns the International African-American Museum, which he had heard about,” said Riley. “He said, ‘Mayor Riley, in all of the work I have done, every series that I have produced, there is a line running through it. There’s a line running through American history. It’s the line of race.’”

Burns will be joined by Gates, fellow documentary filmmaker and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research at Harvard, for a traveling series on race relations in America. The nine-city tour, titled “American Fault Line: Race and the American Ideal,” will debut in Charleston Dec. 9. During the evening’s event, Burns and Gates will show clips from their current projects scheduled to premiere in April. Winner of two Emmy Awards and a two-time nominee for the Academy Award for best documentary feature, Burns is currently working on a film about the life of African-American baseball legend Jackie Robinson. Gates will also be discussing his newest documentary, “Black America Since MLK: And I Still Rise.”

“We’re very proud to have this first national series here in our community and very proud to say that this has been done to benefit the International African-American Museum. All proceeds from this event will go to the museum,” said Riley.

Tickets are currently on sale for $27 for general admission and $10.80 for seniors and students. Mayor Riley said that Burns and Gates requested that tickets be modestly priced so that the event is accessible to all residents in the community.

Following the announcement, Riley briefly discussed the upcoming election for the city’s new mayor and spoke about his life after retirement.

“I’ve been as busy right now as any time during my time as mayor and perhaps even more so because I’ve got until the 11th of January to wrap up whatever I’m working on as best I can,” he said. “I’m feverishly busy and just don’t have time to think about what will happen on the morning of Jan. 12. I hope I don’t by road and mistake come to City Hall.”

During the conference, Riley kept things diplomatic regarding the candidates in Tuesday’s election. He was unwilling to reveal who had won his vote, saying only, “We’re lucky in Charleston to have some very good people running for mayor and I’m certain that the citizens of Charleston will make a wise decision.”

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