The end of the Civil War signified a dramatic shift within the United States, as millions of newly emancipated African Americans finally were able to enjoy personal freedoms, economic prospects and geographic and social mobility previously denied to them.
Education became an important step in this transition, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were established during the Reconstruction era to provide freedmen educational opportunities, as higher educational institutions still catered only to white students. Claflin University in Orangeburg became South Carolina’s first HBCU, established in 1869.
Despite this progress, much work had yet to be done—even a century after slavery ended. HBCUs also played a critical role in the civil rights movement during the 1950s and ‘60s, staging sit-ins and protest marches. In one pivotal demonstration that would become an important legal case in civil rights struggles around the country, 187 students were arrested at the State House. Among them was U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn, a South Carolina State University student now serving as the third-ranking Democrat in Congress.
South Carolina’s HBCUs have not only fostered a nurturing environment for students to explore their cultural identity, but they have also helped create a vibrant class of Black professionals, administrators and business owners in the state. HBCUs’ rich legacy of education, service and support remains integral to Black advancement today.
Set off on a cultural journey following "The Green Book of South Carolina," a travel guide to more than 400 African American cultural sites across the state, featuring themed road trip routes. On this course, learn how five historic schools and HBCUs in South Carolina helped provide generations of African Americans a pathway to a better life through higher education.
Start: Immanuel School, Aiken
Built in 1889 in the late Victorian architectural style, the privately funded parochial school educated African American children in the Aiken area until it closed during the Great Depression. It now serves as the Center for African American History, Art & Culture.
56 miles: Allen University Historic District and Benedict College, Columbia
Standing side by side, these two institutions of higher learning were founded by religious organizations in 1870 and feature picturesque campuses with a number of buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
45 miles: Claflin University, Orangeburg
A top-tier HBCU and the oldest in the state, Claflin was founded by Methodist missionaries in 1869 to educate freedmen after the Civil War, initially providing basic grammar school education and training for teachers.
140 miles: Myrtle Beach Colored School, Myrtle Beach
Thanks to the efforts of its former students, the circa 1930s six-room building—the first public school for African Americans in Myrtle Beach—was rebuilt in 2006 and now serves as a museum and educational center.
221 miles: Cherry Hill School, Hilton Head Island
The first separate school building constructed for African American students on Hilton Head Island, this one-room frame elementary school was built by Beaufort County circa 1937 after the Black community raised the money to buy the property.