International African American Museum secures $500,000 individual donation

Donor's story is the "definition of the American Dream," according to IAAM president


The final designs for the International African-American Museum - MOODY NOLAN INC.
  • Moody Nolan Inc.
  • The final designs for the International African-American Museum
The International African American Museum received a half-a-million-dollar donation from a woman with a pretty exemplary story.

Carolyn Hunter's uncle suggested that she take a job at McDonald's when she graduated from community college in 1977.

"After a while, the manager felt I had some potential and offered me the opportunity to go to the management program," Hunter said.

At 25 years old, she was working as a supervisor for four to five different locations throughout New York City. The owner she worked for, who was black, went on to become her mentor. 
Carolyn Hunter - COURTESY OF IAAM
  • Courtesy of IAAM
  • Carolyn Hunter

"He inspired me to see what I could do to become an owner," Hunter said.

She saved up $75,000 in five years. After that, she knew exactly which location to take over: a store in Moncks Corner.

"I felt the Southeast was the right place for me," Hunter said. "I was in New York, but that wasn’t where I wanted to stay."

Today, the Virginia-born donor owns three franchises in Ladson, Moncks Corner, and Summerville, according to a statement by the IAAM.

“Carolyn Hunter’s story is the definition of the American Dream,” said IAAM president and CEO Michael Boulware Moore in the statement. “She embodies one of my favorite sayings, ‘I am my ancestor’s wildest dreams.’”

The $75 million effort to get the museum up and running in Gadsden's Wharf by 2020 is funded by a combination of government funds and private donations.

Hunter heard about the fundraising efforts through a friend on the museum's board.

"I think it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring something that is so important to light," Hunter said. "So many people in this country came through right here where this museum will be built."

Newly-arrived enslaved Africans were quarantined at Gadsden's Wharf for up to multiple months, according to the IAAM website

The $500,000 donation adds to a $250,000 pledge from BB&T announced on Dec. 13, leaving the museum with $6 million left in fundraising as of Friday.

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