Penn School has created many legacies from its 150 years of existence. The first school for freed slaves is celebrating its 150th anniversary since its founding on St. Helena Island before the end of the Civil War.
Victoria Smalls, coordinator of the sesquicentennial celebration, has strong ties to the school. Her father studied at Penn School, and Penn Center is where he later met her mother during the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
"It is exciting because Penn Center is like the beginning of education for the entire South and the interpreter for Gullah culture in the Sea Island area," said Smalls, who lives on St. Helena Island.
Penn Center's archives date back to the school's start in 1862.
"We are the place to come for information on Sea Island and Gullah culture," Smalls said.
"Penn is a very unique piece of American history."
The anniversary will be commemorated over the next three years. This year, the celebration highlights the founding of Penn School, the anniversary of Robert Smalls' capture of "The Planter," the transition of the school from industrial to vocational curriculum and the Reconstruction era.
In 2013, the celebration will focus on the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps.
In 2014, the focus will be on Penn Center's legacy and the center's programs and accomplishments.
A forum will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. June 22 with community members who will discuss the center's past and how they have been affected by Penn Center. Participants -- including Fred Washington, Dr. Emory Campbell, Laura Von Harten and William McBride -- will discuss their vision for the future of Penn over the next 50 years. Ronnie Johnson and Shacola Jenkins, two participants in the center's after-school tutoring program, PACE, will speak.
Details: 843-838-2432, www.penncenter.com