- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A $5 million corporate gift is helping to launch a new effort to preserve African-American history in the St. Louis area.

The Ferguson-based technology company Emerson announced the donation Monday to the Missouri Historical Society, which operates the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park and the museum’s Library and Research Center.

The gift, which will be paid over seven years, is the first donation toward a $10 million African-American History Endowment campaign that will allow the Historical Society to focus on African-American collections, exhibitions and programs.

Emerson officials say the goal is to tell the story of African-Americans’ role in the region’s growth.

The spotlight has been on racial disparities in the St. Louis area since the August 2014 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, by a white Ferguson police officer. Officer Darren Wilson was not charged and resigned in November.

“African-American history is tightly and deeply interwoven into every part of this community, and recent events have made clear the need to bring greater understanding to what we have done together and what we can yet accomplish together,” museum president Frances Levine said in a statement.

David N. Farr, Emerson’s chairman and CEO, said the endowment will help create greater cultural understanding and should help spur “collaborative solutions to issues in our region and beyond.”

The Historical Society will seek community and corporate donations for the remainder of the endowment, and the history museum will also seek additional gifts and grant money.

The Historical Society is already guardian of several prominent African-American collections, such as Civil War soldier Elijah Madison, dancer and activist Katherine Dunham, attorney and civic leader Homer G. Phillips, and educator Herman Dreer.

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