Recently, we had the pleasure to tour the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, truly a cultural gem. The Center’s mission is to collect, preserve and promote the unique history and culture of African Americans, with an emphasis on Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry.

The imposing brick building is located on the site of the former Avery Normal Institute in Charleston’s Harleston Village District at 125 Bull St. That institute was established at the end of the Civil War as a secondary school to train young African-Americans for professional careers and leadership roles. It served as a hub for Charleston’s African-American community from 1865 to 1954. In 1985, alumni of the Avery Normal Institute collaborated with others to establish the current Center. Today, it operates as a museum, an archive and a center for public programming that attracts thousands of patrons, scholars and lecturers from around the world.

Executive director Dr. Patricia Williams Lessane says, “In recent years we have been able to raise the profile of the Avery Research Center to the national and international stage with our conferences, exhibits, partnerships and digital initiatives.”

Current and upcoming events include a symposium titled The Marrow of Tradition—The Black Film in the American Cinematic Tradition; a performance by the renowned Fisk Jubilee Singers from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee; and an exhibition titled Cleveland L. Sellers: The SNCC Years, Coming Through the Fire. This last exhibition draws from the Cleveland Sellers archival collection at the Center and features letters, newspapers, magazines, photographs, music and ephemera that document the 1964 Freedom Summer during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

Visit or call 843-953-7609.

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