Sen. Marlon Kimpson puts state lawmakers on notice for defunding African American Museum

Charleston senator also criticizes reduced oversight for colleges

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State Sen. Marlon Kimpson (right) called out members of the state House of Representatives for the lack of funding for Charleston's International African American Museum in this year's budget - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • State Sen. Marlon Kimpson (right) called out members of the state House of Representatives for the lack of funding for Charleston's International African American Museum in this year's budget
South Carolina Sen. Marlon Kimpson took the opportunity earlier this week to critique the members of the state House of Representatives for their refusal to provide funding for Charleston’s International African American Museum in their most recent budget.

So far, state legislators have contributed $14 million toward the construction of the International African American Museum, planned to be built on Gadsden’s Wharf in Charleston. Charleston County and the City of Charleston have pledged $25 million to the $75-million project, with another $25 million expected to come from private funding. Members of the state Senate had set aside an additional $5 million for the museum in this year’s budget, but that funding did not make it past the House.

According to former Charleston mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., who serves on the board of the museum, state lawmakers wanted private fundraising efforts to be completed before the museum received any more state money. A decision that he predicted would delay construction by at least eight month and drew the ire of Sen. Kimpson.

“While the Senate fought, and has fought for the last three years, to get funding in this budget for the African American Museum, the House refused to do so. So I’m not sure I want to be a part of any budget this legislative session that does not include the African American Museum,” the Charleston Democrat told his fellow state legislators in Columbia.

Calling the museum one of the most promising projects this state could fund, Kimpson blasted members of the House for jeopardizing the museum’s future.


“This is not an indictment against the Senate because the Senate did its job. But I am sending notice,” he said. “I’m providing notice that this is an issue and every time we discuss this budget, I’m going to be back up here and joining this fusion coalition to not only not support this amendment, but to the extent that we have any procedural opportunities to leverage this discussion for some funding for the African American Museum.”

Kimpson also took a moment to comment on the decision to limit the oversight of the state Commission on Higher Education, especially as it relates to regulating colleges’ ability to construct athletic stadiums. According to the senator, both the University of South Carolina and Clemson now generate more than $100 million in revenue from athletics. But for Kimpson, that money never finds its way to those he feels deserve it the most.

“Everybody’s getting paid, but the people responsible for generating that revenue — mainly the people on the court, the basketball court, who wake up at 5 a.m. — they’re prohibited from having a work-study job — and the people on the football field,” said Kimpson. “Dabo Swinney can ride around in a private jet. We can have the alumni sitting, sipping mint juleps in the private luxury suite. But these young men and women who earn the revenue for these universities only get the cost of attendance in their athletic scholarship.”


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