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“P” is for Penn Center

South Carolina A to Z larger logo

“P” is for Penn Center. Located on St. Helena Island in Beaufort County, Penn Center, Inc., originated as the Penn Normal School. It was established by northern missionaries—one of some thirty schools built on the island as part of the port Royal Experiment—an effort to educate formerly enslaved Africans and prepare them for life after slavery. The school was named in honor of Quaker activist William Penn. In 1901 the school was chartered as Penn Normal, Industrial, and Agricultural School. In 1948, the Penn school board decided that it was no longer feasible to operate a private boarding school as public schools had been opened on St. Helena Island. After becoming Penn Community Center in 1953, what had formally been Penn School, began to focus on social issues affecting the well-being of the native islanders.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.