At Penn Center, Civil Rights Symposium to be held


Penn Center on St. Helena Island is hosting a Civil Rights Symposium to recognize and commemorate the anniversary of the founding of Penn School and its important role in United States history. Since 1862, Penn School, now known as Penn Center, has been a historic site for education that prepared its students for responsible citizenship, and it has worked to advance the promise of freedom for all residents in the Sea Islands.

Penn Center is organizing a conference to facilitate greater state and regional understanding of this rich history and is developing a network to support that objective. A longer term goal is to utilize this opportunity to launch the Penn Center Civil Rights Institute, the first of several regional facilities to promote civil rights discourse, organization and planning. This program is sponsored in part by The Humanities Council SC, whose mission is to inspire, engage, and enrich South Carolinians with programs on literature, history, culture and heritage.

Penn Center is well-situated to lead this contemporary effort to secure a quality education and voting rights for all students. Penn Center is inviting key stakeholders in this movement to speak, including Dave Dennis, Bob Moses, Connie Curry, Cleve Sellers, Chuck McDew, Emory Campbell, Millicent Brown, Hayes Mizell, Dan Carter, Tom Gaither, Jim Campbell, Myrtle Glascoe and other key civil rights activists who were participants in the Civil Rights Movement as it relates to Penn Center.

Their perspective will be enhanced by the contributions of local experts on the topic such as Emory Campbell, Joseph McDomick, Thomas Barnwell, Victoria Smalls, and Maria Benac.

Invited scholars and activists such as Vernon Burton, Jack Bass and William Hine will address issues including the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the repeal of key components of federal protection of the right to vote, the re-segregation of public schools, the school to prison pipeline, the role (and peril) of historically black colleges and universities in today’s society, and the role of museums and programs of social justice in the contemporary civil rights movement.

As part of the conference, Penn Center will also facilitate the participation of young people in workshops and panels on police violence and strategies around achieving a quality public education. This includes working with Dave Dennis, civil rights organizer from the 1960s, and another significant leader from that era, Bob Moses, who founded the Algebra Project and Young People’s Project in 1990. This focus on issues facing our communities currently will gain purpose through a retrospective look at recent documentaries on Freedom Summer and Freedom Riders, integral components of the Civil Rights Movement, as well as a screening of “The Corridor of Shame,” which drew attention to the inadequacies of local education programs.

The conference and the launching of the Civil Rights Institute at Penn Center will inform local, state, and regional citizens and leaders of this very crucial history. This, as noted, will also contribute to the content of professional development for teachers, the growth of leadership potential of young people, and the increased vitality of education throughout South Carolina. Finally, these activities will lift up the role of Penn Center and Beaufort in the growing regional and national efforts and discussions about quality public education in the country.

For more information on the Penn Center Civil Rights Symposium, schedule of events, and ways to sponsor and support it, please contact Victoria A. Smalls, Director of History, Art & Culture at Penn Center 843-838-2432 or info@penncenter.com.


When: Friday, November 21 at 9 a.m. to Saturday, November 22 at 8 p.m.

Where: Penn Center, 16 Penn Center Circle West, St. Helena Island, SC, 29920

What: There will be a series of free dicussions with guest speakers throughout the two days. For a schedule of events and to register for the symposium, contact 843-838-2432 or visit www.penncenter.org.

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