The history of praises houses in the Bluffton area will be explored in a free lecture at 6 p.m. Jan. 22 at the Campbell chapel A.M.E. Church, 25 Boundary St. in Bluffton.
Victoria Smalls, program director at the fledgling International African American Museum in Charleston, will speak about the small buildings that were at the core of Gullah life in the Lowcountry both before and after the abolition of slavery.
“Generally simple, clapboard structures built by the slaves themselves, praise houses were erected with the knowledge, if not always the complete approval, of the master class,” according to the South Carolina Encylopedia. “Meetings in the praise house usually occurred on week nights rather than on Sunday mornings ...”
Several buildings used as praise houses still exist in the Bluffton area, event organizers say.
“The very existence of praise houses in South Carolina indicates that masters failed in their attempt to make the plantation a completely closed system,” the South Carolina Encyclopedia says. “Even under the degrading conditions of slavery, religious life and practice strengthened and sustained the slave community. The building of the praise houses reveals the struggle of the enslaved to maintain their humanity in the midst of an inhuman system.”
Smalls is a native of St. Helena Island who was formerly on the staff at the Penn Center, where she worked in development and marketing and as its director of art, history and culture.
The event is part of the Bluffton Lecture and Dinner Series. Those who wish may dine together afterward at Captain Woody’s in Blufffton.
“The Bluffton Lecture Series is the result of a porch conversation of Carolyn Coppola and me,” Joan Heyward said. “We decided it was time to provide education about our Bluffton Historic District and the lecture series was born. Our little area is full of history that needs to be known by Blufftonians.”
Previous lecture topics have been “Architectural History of Blufffton” and “History of the A.M.E. Church and the Campbell Chapel Congregation.”
A lecture scheduled for 6 p.m. March 19 at the Farm restaurant is “Our Hidden Treasures: The Allen-Lockwood House and the Pope Carriage House,” led by historic preservationist Carolyn Coppola.
For further information, contact Heyward at firstname.lastname@example.org, 843-707-7610; or Coppola at CoppolaPreservation@gmail.com, 914-475-1168.