Anniversaries, by definition, only come around once a year. Unless, it seems, you’re the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, which this year celebrates two important ones: its 30th and 150th.
Let’s start with the latter. The American Missionary Association established the center in 1865 as Charleston’s first free secondary school for African Americans. Initially named after abolitionist Lewis Tappan, the school was named the Avery Normal Institute in 1868, when its building was completed thanks largely to Reverend Charles Avery of Pittsburgh. Operating as a private institution for Charleston’s most prominent black families until 1947, when it became a public city school, the Avery Normal Institute closed just months before the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954. But that wasn’t the end. The Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture was established at the College of Charleston in 1985 as an education and research hub for the preservation of the history, traditions and culture of African Americans and their place within the American narrative.
Thirty years after it came to the College and 150 years after it was first established, the Avery Research Center still plays a central role in Charleston’s African American community. And that alone is cause for double the celebration.