No one can ever accuse the leaders of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in downtown Greensboro of thinking small – and that’s especially true in 2022 and 2023, when the museum embarked on its effort to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site – an exclusive group of places that includes the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty.

The museum just held its annual Gala – the biggest fundraising event the downtown Greensboro museum holds each year, and museum leaders after the event expressed their enthusiasm for the museum’s big plans.

International Civil Rights Center and Museum CEO John Swaine described the importance of those plans to the museum and to Greensboro.

In an open letter to the community, he wrote: “Once again, we express our gratitude to everyone who contributed to the achievement of the most consequential development at the Museum over the 13 years since we opened to the public — our purchase of the remainder of the full city block on which the landmark five-and-ten-cent store stands, along with the former First Citizens Bank building next door. We are still in the process of raising funds to defray loans we undertook to provide a significant portion of the funds needed to acquire the property.”

In the letter, Swaine thanked the individuals, civic organizations, and elected leaders at various levels of government who have helped the “five-year dream of expansion” so far – including the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the City of Greensboro, Guilford County, the State of North Carolina, and the Board of Directors of the nonprofit, Sit-In Movement, Inc.

“I thank you for helping us show our appreciation to last evening’s civil rights honorees for the 63rd Anniversary of the Greensboro Sit-Ins,” he stated the day after the Gala.

Swaine wrote that opportunities offered by the property acquisition are “ever-broadening,” and the new space can be used to implement a vision that allows the museum to pursue “our mission to uphold the global legacy of our place among the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.”

The museum used to hold its galas early in the year. However, the 2023 Annual Fundraising Gala was held on Tuesday, July 25 to mark the achievement of racial desegregation at the Greensboro Woolworth lunch counter after six months of demonstrations in 1960.

At the gala, the museum recognized six significant contributors to the struggle for civil and human rights.