Birth of Center for African American History, Art and Culture

Progress of Center

The Center for African American History, Art and Culture will be housed in the historic Immanuel Institute building located on the corner of York and Richland Streets. Reverend W.R. Coles, an African American Presbyterian missionary, moved to Aiken in 1881 and established a church and a school for freed slaves in a small six-room house on Newberry Street. As the school grew, he built the Immanuel Institute in 1889. Over the years the building has housed a variety of educational and cultural schools and undergone some modification.

Currently, the building exterior has been restored to its 1889 appearance, and the inside to being renovated to house the Center for African History, Art and Culture. Upon discovering the history of the Immanuel Institute building in 2004, an ambitious movement began to capture that history and tell the stories of those African descent who played pivotal roles in Aiken County’s development. Community leaders, local businesses, city officials and citizens worked together to purchase, renovate and restore the building to house the Center for African American History, Art and Culture. The Center is dedicated to the collection, preservation, interpretation and dissemination of the contributions and accomplishments of African Americans in Aiken County, it is designed to educate and inform the public by offering an interactive curriculum focusing on history and the arts.

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