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2 schools provided private education for black students in Sumter from 1895 to 1946

Posted 2/22/20

In celebration of Black History Month, Reflections remembers the origin of private schools for black Americans in the Sumter community. In Sumter, the only records to reference these private schools came from the "Annual Report of the State …

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2 schools provided private education for black students in Sumter from 1895 to 1946

Posted

In celebration of Black History Month, Reflections remembers the origin of private schools for black Americans in the Sumter community. In Sumter, the only records to reference these private schools came from the "Annual Report of the State Superintendent of Education, dated Jan. 24, 1870."

This report listed a school supported by the Freedman's Union Commission Presbyterian Home Mission Committee and one year later by the Freedman's Aid Society, Methodist Church. According to research, there were two important private schools for black people in Sumter from 1895 to 1946, the first being Kendall Institute, 1895-1932, and Morris College High School, 1908-1946. Research will focus on the growth and development of Morris College High School and present a brief discussion of graduates who played a prominent role in the academic endeavors of the Sumter community and nation. In order to complete our research, extensive use of The Sumter Item archives and the writings of the late Ruth Edens and Dr. Anne King Gregorie was made.

Morris College High School was opened by black Baptists in South Carolina in 1908. The school was designed to meet the needs of black children "at all levels of study, including elementary, secondary and college." The students were given the option of attending as day students or boarding at the school for a minimal fee. The high school established stringent requirements before applying for entry, including completing eight full years of study before consideration was given for acceptance. Students had to submit a letter of recommendation stating that they possessed "good moral character." Passing grades were required in all courses attempted, and Morris High School, being a private school, found it necessary to charge fees for attendance.

"In 1915, boarding students were charged $8 per month. This fee included everything except books and extra fees for private instrumental music instruction ($2.50 for eight lessons) and dressmaking ($1 per month). Day students were charged $1.50 per month. In 1915, the campus at Morris, which was used by all students, consisted of three large buildings, with chapel, recitation rooms and dormitories. The school grew rapidly, and by 1917, two buildings had been added. In 1919, a large building was completed, and during the next 15 years, four others were added, making a total of 10 spacious buildings being added to the campus by 1944."

This concludes part 1 of the history of Morris College High School. Part 2 will focus on the curricula, leadership, extra-curricular activities and distinguished alumni.