Tubman announces nearly $1 million toward fundraising goal

About 70 people gathered Tuesday at the Tubman African American Museum's unfinished building on Cherry Street as museum officials kicked off a new capital campaign.

The museum announced several major gifts en route to the estimated $9.5 million it will take to complete the museum.

During the news conference, Cox Communications vice president and general manager Mike Dyer presented a check for $250,000 to museum executive director Andy Ambrose and museum board chairwoman Jo Wilbanks. Moments later, officials from Seattle-based Safeco Insurance donated $100,000 from their foundation.

"I think it's important we get (the museum) completed," Dyer said. "It's a statement about Macon and Bibb County that ... people visit and they ask what that yellow building is on Cherry Street, and it's unfinished. It says something about a lack of community support. ... It's going to be hard to go to business in Atlanta and beyond and ask for money if we're not leading the efforts ourselves."

Ambrose and Wilbanks announced just under $1 million in donations to kick off the campaign. In addition to the money the museum received from Cox Communications and Safeco Insurance, the museum also announced it had received a $241,000 gift from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; federal appropriations of $200,000 in support of the museum's construction; and more than $200,000 pledged and donated by the Tubman's board of directors.

The museum already had $1 million in the bank from its first capital campaign, so with the donations announced Tuesday the Tubman needs to raise another $7.5 million to complete construction. Ambrose said construction work wouldn't begin until all the money is raised.

"This is an exciting, a very exciting launch to our campaign," Ambrose said. "(The donations) are very significant and are what spark other donations."