The reading of the book "Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom" will have a special meaning to the students of Whale Branch Middle School who recently read the account of William and Ellen Crafts' 1848 escape from Macon, Ga., to Philadelphia.
The fact that the couple stopped in Savannah gave the story a local connection. And the Crafts' relationship to Herbert DeCosta, one of their descendants, made the book more meaningful. The late DeCosta was a longtime board member of Penn Center and a graduate of the Avery Normal Institute.
The Avery Normal Institute sank deep and branching roots in the sandy soils of the Carolina Lowcountry. The school was established by the American Missionary Association in Charleston in the spring of 1865. Former slaves saw a chance to continue in the open the studies they had been forced to begin surreptitiously.
For most of its history, it was the area's sole college preparatory institution open to black students. In that role, Avery emphasized training to produce a liberally educated, politically active, socially responsible black leadership for nearly 100 years.
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The institute eventually closed, and now the Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture is part of the College of Charleston. The center was founded to collect, organize and make available to students, scholars and the public materials illustrating or bearing on the history and culture of the blacks in the United States, with particular emphasis on the experience of African-Americans of the Lowcountry.
In the "Avery Cookbook, Treasured Recipes," the history of Avery Institute is condensed but tells the story of the pride of learning and the struggle to hold on to history. The book gives an insight into the kitchens of many of the proud graduates and family members of Avery Institute.
Port Royal resident Ervena Faulkner is a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org