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Avery Normal Institute


Historical Note

Avery Normal Institute was a grade and high school with a small normal department, where elementary teachers were trained. It was known for high academic and moral stadards. During the Jim Crow era, Avery served as liaison between the African American and white communities in the Charleston area.

In 1865, General Rufus Saxton, an Assistant Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau, opened a school for African Americans in Charleston. Known as the Saxton School, the institution became Avery Normal Institute as a result of a building grant from Reverend Charles Avery of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. In 1892, the institute was incorporated under state law.

By 1941, the physical condition of Avery buildings had deteriorated to the extent that both the AMA and the school administration talked of replacing the facilities rather than continuing with minor repairs. The original 1865 building was destroyed that year by fire. World War II caused an overwhelming turnover in faculty, due to the military draft and the rash of marriages at the outbreak of the war. Director Frank A. DeCosta resigned in order to obtain his Ph.D. at Lincoln University in Philadelphia; he was replaced by L. Howard Bennett.

Bennett resigned in 1944 in order to earn a higher wage with the United Service Organizaions. During that same year, the AMA announced its gradual withdrawal of financial support and encouraged the local African American community to take over this function. Local support raised $10,000 to begin this process. In 1945, John F. Potts became Director and remained in that position until the school closed in 1954. The managing of Avery was taken over by the Charleston school system in 1947 and leased the building from the AMA on a yearly basis. In 1954, the school merged with the Burke Negro High School.


American Missionary Association archives 1969 addendum

Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

American Missionary Association archives addenda

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 001-1
Scope and Contents The 1969 addendum and later addenda to the American Missionary Association archives are mostly twentieth century in scope, covering two main subject areas. The first is the association's numerous schools. These are considered "field" records, or, the fruits of the Association's missionary work outside of its New York City office. The Addendum is divided into three series: Series 1 covers field-related work, mainly the AMA schools; Series 2 covers projects that were run directly form the New...
Dates: Created: 1849-1991; Other: Date acquired: 03/31/1969

William F. Holmes scrapbook

Identifier: 184
Content Description The scrapbook contains clippings, programs, invitations, and a limited amount of correspondence. There are several programs and clippings concerning the Avery Institute. The scrapbook, in general, contains items about Black idividuals, organizations, and institutions in South Carolina. Holmes married Louise Fordham, daughter of the poet, Mary Weston Fordham. He was principal of the Wilson School in Florence, South Carolina, then studied for the medical profession at Howard University....
Dates: Other: 1875-1911

Eric Steele Wells papers

Identifier: 384
Scope and Contents The Eric Steele Wells papers document the family and education of Wells, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, especially Avery Institute in Charleston, where Wells attended school. The bulk of the collection includes material reflecting Wells' interest in collecting materials related to African American and African history. The collection contains correspondence, photographs, financial documents, Avery Institute publications and school documents, posters, printed ephemera, newsclippings...
Dates: Created: 1855-1986; Other: Date acquired: 09/03/1969