150 years of education, leadership and service: Penn Center hosts Founder’s Day Celebration

Penn Center is one of the oldest and most historically significant African American cultural and educational institutions in the United States.   Founded in 1862 as one of the first schools established in the South to educate newly freed African slaves, today Penn Center remains a major educational, historical and cultural resource and service center for Sea Islanders and offers a wide range of programs and activities to tens of thousands of visitors annually. The recent passing of the legislation of the Gullah/Geechee Act has focused on Penn Center as one of the interpretive sites along the national Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.
The historic Penn Center, located on St. Helena Island, will celebrate 150 years of education, leadership and service in a three-year commemoration:
2012: Celebrating the Founding of Penn School, the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, Robert Smalls and his Capture of The Steamship Planter through the Reconstruction Era.
2013: Celebrating Penn Center’s Community Service, the Civil Right Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Visits to Penn Center, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps.
2014: Celebrating Penn Center’s Legacy, a New and Sustainable Future and Our Youth.
Penn Center is gearing up to celebrate its 150th Anniversary & Founder’s Day Celebration on June 22-23 with all events to be held at the Penn School National Historic Landmark District.
The festivities begin on Friday, June 22 with guided tours of the historic Penn Center grounds; a Lowcountry Fish Fry with Blues by Bill DuPont; Book Signing with Bob Rogers author of “First Dark: A Buffalo Soldiers Story” and Illustrator and Artist John W. Jones. Later that evening everyone is invited to join in on an open forum discussing Penn Center: Then, Now and Tomorrow.
On Saturday, June 23, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Negro Regiment Civil War re-enactors will perform, there will be a Sesquicentennial Memorial unveiling and church choirs will sing spirituals from the Lowcountry. Penn Center will be filming “Share Your Stories,” a documentary on the life and times of students who attended Penn School and individuals that have been involved in Penn School and Penn Center as a whole.  That afternoon, Penn Club, Inc., the major supporter of Penn Center, will host a banquet luncheon at the historic Brick Baptist Church, which was built in 1855 by enslaved West Africans brought to the Lowcountry. The keynote speakers will be Dr. Emory S.  Campbell, Executive Director Emeritus at Penn Center, Inc., and Mr. Roland J. Gardner Chief Executive Officer of the Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Service, Inc.  The York W. Bailey Museum will hosts a South Carolina Regional Art Showcase and an exhibit featuring the Penn School Pictures.
The Penn School Historic District is located at 16 Penn Center Circle West, off Sea Island Parkway on St. Helena Island, six miles from downtown Beaufort. For ticket information and the schedule of events for the celebration, call 843-838-2432 or visit www.penncenter.com or email info@penncenter.com.

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