Black center in Aiken seeks more funds

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AIKEN --- It will take another $1.5 million and close to two years for the Center for African American History, Art and Culture to open.

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The Center for African American History, Art and Culture in Aiken has raised $1.5 million in the since the project started.  File
The Center for African American History, Art and Culture in Aiken has raised $1.5 million in the since the project started.

Wade Brodie, the chairman for Aiken Corp., the company that owns the center at York Street and Richland Avenue, said $1.5 million has been raised since the project began about six years ago, but additional funds are needed to purchase and place exhibits in the building, which was a schoolhouse for former slaves in the late 1800s.

Organizers have planned a fundraiser at USC Aiken next month to help boost the campaign to open the center.

"We just found out what designing the exhibits will cost; we have to finish the construction work upstairs and on the inside, but outside renovation is complete," Mr. Brodie said.

The center's organizers received a $12,000 grant last month that will go toward completing construction on the building's second floor.

More funds are needed for construction and the computerized and structural exhibits that will showcase the history of local blacks from the time they left Africa, traveled to Charleston, S.C., and then to Aiken, Mr. Brodie said.

Once the additional money is raised, it will take a year to complete the center's exhibits, he said.

The city of Aiken donated $360,000 to the project, and the county has given $100,000, Mr. Brodie said. The state granted $250,000 to the center. The community has also helped raise funds since the renovation began several years ago.

There was some controversy surrounding the project initially.

"I think there was some concern about paying to renovate this building, because people thought this was just another museum," he said. "It will be a learning center that will bring tourism and even more of a presence downtown."

Aiken Corp. recently hired a part-time executive director to plan fundraising events and write grant proposals, said T. Ella Strother, board member for the cultural center. USC Aiken will hold an Evening of Jazz at 7 p.m. Dec. 11 in the Etheridge Center to help raise funds. The sale of the book, A Pictorial History of African-Americans in Aiken County, which Mrs. Strother co-wrote, will also benefit the center.

She said the board will likely seek additional help from the county and city to ensure the project achieves its 2011 open date.

"The economy has had an impact on us completing this renovation, so we're going to need all the help we can get from the city, county and the community," she said. "This is something that will benefit our whole community, so we want to see this come to fruition."

Reach Stephanie Toone at (803) 648-1395 ext. 110, or


To purchase a copy of A Pictorial History of African-Americans in Aiken County, call the Aiken Downtown Development Association at (803) 649-2221.

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Just My Opinion
Just My Opinion 11/04/09 - 05:21 pm
Daggone! How many Black

Daggone! How many Black Centers do we need?? Why is it that you NEVER hear of any Oriental Centers?, Spanish Centers?, Indian Centers (both types!)?, or even WHITE Centers??? Good grief, this is getting pretty ridiculous. Now, I'm not trying to make this a "I hate everything Black" type message, so if you respond, keep that in mind! Sure, history is important, but don't we have enough Black Centers all over the place? If it's so important to include museums to remember minorities, why aren't any of the other minorities clamoring to get theirs? Like many other things, I think the bottom line is MONEY! Someone will profit from this Black Center, mark my words.

zigzag 11/04/09 - 07:28 pm
Just another attempt to set

Just another attempt to set up a "non-profit" organization whose funds are poorly monitored, and donations end up in Board member pockets. Do you really think this is a tourist attraction for Aiken? Huh? Is there anyone alive that wants to go and listen to someone babble on and on about events that happened over a hundred years ago? Don't you think that there are thousands of buildings all over the country? What makes Aiken so unique? Please stop the madness!

mable8 11/04/09 - 09:44 pm
Another day, another dollar.

Another day, another dollar. If this group wants to open another center, then they should pay for it themselves. There are numerous tourist areas that reflect the history of the South; bet you won't find one in the North!

baronvonreich 11/05/09 - 01:05 am
$710,000 of taxpayer money

$710,000 of taxpayer money WASTED from those in the city of Aiken, Aiken County, and the state of South Carolina. Politicians are thieves.

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