Keep Reading. Subscribe Today.

Stay connected with our community and support nationally-acclaimed local news coverage. Sign up for a subscription today. Cancel anytime.

  • Already a subscriber?

Reflections by Sammy Way: Well-rounded curriculum offered to black students

By SAMMY WAY
Archivist and historian
Posted 2/29/20

Reflections continues research on Morris College High School, focusing on the school's curriculum, moral and spiritual development of students, extracurricular activities and student participation in athletic activities available to both boys and …

This item is available in full to subscribers

Reflections by Sammy Way: Well-rounded curriculum offered to black students

Posted

Reflections continues research on Morris College High School, focusing on the school's curriculum, moral and spiritual development of students, extracurricular activities and student participation in athletic activities available to both boys and girls. This is part two of a two-part series focusing on education of black students from 1895 to 1946.

The Sumter Item archives provided numerous articles and photographs. There were two important private schools for blacks located in Sumter from 1895 to 1946, the first being Kendall Institute, 1895-1932, and Morris College High School, 1908-1946.

Morris College High School offered a challenging curriculum that varied on content each year. The following listings were offered in the 1915-16 catalog.

First year — Algebra, Latin, Composition, Physiology, Bible, Music, Current Events, Speaking

Second Year — Latin, Algebra, Ancient History, Rhetoric and Composition, Bible, Music, Current Events, Speaking

Third Year — Elementary Greek, English History, Plane Geometry (Botany 2nd Term), Bible, Music, Current Events, Speaking

Fourth Year — Latin, Greek, Literature-Classics, Chemistry, Bible, Music, Current Events, Speaking

"In addition, English was taught in all grades, and domestic science classes were offered. Girls who had completed basic sewing in domestic science classes could select a course in dressmaking. Truck farming was offered to both boys and girls and was very popular. Students not only learned the fundamentals of gardening but were allowed to plant their own garden."

"Basically, this academic course of study remained the same, though several new courses were offered soon after 1915. In 1917, physics and German were included for seniors; in 1918, advanced United States history and zoology were available for juniors; mental arithmetic was offered for freshmen; modern history and agriculture for sophomores; French for juniors and for seniors; and solid geometry in 1919. During the time when academic offerings were meager for black students on the high school level, Morris offered an unusual opportunity."

Students were encouraged in their development of "a high standard of spiritual and moral values" reinforced by required courses in the Bible and daily mandatory attendance at chapel services.

"To balance this well-rounded curriculum, a number of activities were available. Both the YMCA and YWCA organizations were active at the school. A Literary Society sponsored various dramatic activities, and a Debating Club offered opportunities for speaking and debating issues. In addition to teaching music courses, the Music Department produced excellent choirs and glee clubs. Lectures were given from time to time by members of the Board of Trustees, friends of education and noted speakers."

Boys were playing intramural football and baseball during the 1920s. However, young men with exceptional athletic ability were frequently allowed to join the Morris College athletic teams.

"The advantages offered a high school by combining it with a college facility were numerous. Courses could be offered on a higher level by utilizing the college faculty. In the specialized fields of science, math and foreign languages, most schools could not afford to hire qualified teachers for these subjects for the few students desiring them. By using teachers of these subjects in the college, Morris College High School was able to offer a broad curriculum. The use of the facilities for these departments and the library by both groups offered better advantages for teaching and learning."

Morris College High School has produced a number of distinguished alumni, including Willie Lee Ashley. Lt. Ashley, a 1938 graduate of Morris College High, holds the distinction of being one of the first to receive his wings by finishing pilot training and be commissioned a second lieutenant in the 99th Pursuit Squadron under the command of Gen. Benjamin O. Davis during World War II. Lt. Ashley is generally recognized as being "South Carolina's first black pilot."

Mr. J. H. Kilgo was another distinguished alumnus of Morris College High School who accepted employment at Lincoln High School in 1930 as principal.

It was during his tenure at the school that students published the school's first newspaper, The Echo, and its first yearbook, The Lincolnite. Ms. Evelyn Cuthbert, another graduate, played an instrumental role in the growth and development of the Lincoln High Library.

During the early 1940s, the college underwent a rapid expansion in both facilities and enrollment. "The Board of Trustees in its annual meeting, in May of 1942, voted to discontinue high school work at Morris. No classes for high school students were offered for the school year 1946-47."

"Thus Morris College ended its 37 years of providing a quality high school education for black students in the Sumter area, a service not only to those who attended, but to the entire community. Wherever Morris graduates have gone, the influence of the school has been felt."

Reflections offers special recognition to Sumter historian Mrs. Ruth Edens, whose writings and research have made this article possible.