I'll probably be posting quite a few entries about the Penn Center between now and November -- and for a couple of different reasons. First, my book, The Road to Frogmore, tells the story of the founding of the Penn Center in 1862 by Laura M. Towne, so I feel very much involved with its history. Add to that the fact that the Penn Center Bookstore has just stocked copies of my book, which I cannot help but see as a major vote of approval of the book -- even better than a 5-star review. And then, too, their yearly festival, Heritage Days, is coming in November, and there will be lots of interesting things going on. I'm not going to be able to be there this year, but I will be on St. Helena Island the very next week, giving a talk at the St. Helena Island Library about the book at 2:00 on November 20th.
So to start, here's what I'd like people to know about this important historic landmark:
Tucked in the heart of the South Carolina Sea Islands between glimmering marshes and deep water, nestled beneath the silvery moss draped limbs of massive live oaks, you will find the Penn Center—the site of one of the country's first schools for freed slaves and one of the most significant African American historical and cultural institutions in existence today. Located on St. Helena Island, one of the most beautiful and historically distinct of the South Carolina Sea Islands, Penn Center sits at the heart of Gullah culture, on the 50 acres of the historical campus of Penn School. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974, it is a part of the Penn School Historic District which is comprised of nineteen buildings related to and used by Penn School—Brick Church, Darrah Hall, one of the oldest buildings on St. Helena Island, old burial grounds, Gantt Cottage where Martin Luther King Jr. lodged, a Nature Trail, Chowan Creek, acres of pines, native flora and fauna.
Here's what one visitor had to say about his family's experience: "What a well preserved and informative structure. We did not have high expectations as we were simply taking a day tour and exploring the St. Helena. We were very surprised that the Penn Center was well staffed and FULL of historical content. The Curator and Staff were very knowledgeble with regards to Penn and well as all of the local history. The 20 minute video is well worth watching as you feel the flavor of the times and struggle; which makes you appreciate the experience even more. The gift shop is awesome and full of Gullah/Geechee information and "trinkets" Since we were simply visting for the day, we asked the staff for other places of historical interest and were directed to the "tabby" ruins and Fort Fredmont, which were both just down the street. What an awesome adventure and many kudos to the Penn staff for the historical experience. We were very impressed."
Add this to your bucket list!