The Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture, located in Harleston Village on the Charleston peninsula, was established in 1865 as the Avery Normal Institute with the mission of providing an academic education to freed slaves. The three-story structure was built in 1868. The Institute was closed in 1954, and the building was later purchased by the state of South Carolina. In 1990, the Avery Research Center opened in the renovated school building under the auspices of the College of Charleston.
The archives of the Avery Research Center focus on the profound experiences of African peoples in the Lowcountry, their embarkation on Goree and Bunce Islands in Sierra Leone and Senegal, and the ports of Angola and the Congo, during the Middle Passage, in Barbados and other Caribbean islands, and on the shores and land of Charleston and the Sea Islands. This story is especially vital and important in a region where indigenous African cultural traditions survive.
The Center's archives also tell the story of the prominence of many of the region's citizens, and the unparalleled impact of the skill, talent, and leadership of enslaved and free blacks. This story has produced an unprecedented history in Gullah and Sea Island culture, slavery, emancipation, Civil War and Reconstruction, segregation, migration, the civil rights movement, women's rights, education, business, and the arts. It makes its archives accessible to the academic and general public. The archives contain documentary material dating from 1777 to the present, including manuscript, photograph and video, and audiotape collections; oral histories; African and African-American art and artifacts; a variety of published materials, including newspapers; and bibliographies.
Deborah Wright, Archivist