The Penn School served as a gathering place for civil rights activists
The Siceloffs discuss their involvement with the civil rights movement and their work with the Penn School. Created during the Civil War, the Penn School was part of a missionary effort to educate black children on the islands off South Carolina's coast. The civil rights movement came to the school because of its beneficial integrated facilities, but the integration of the school increased the anger of local South Carolina whites.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Elizabeth and Courtney Siceloff, July 8, 1985. Interview F-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
Where were y'all in 1960?
We were at Penn School and very much involved.
'50 to '69.
That long? That's a long time. Well then you were kind of isolated from
the civil rights movement?
It came there.
In what way?
Well, there was a conference center. That was one of the first things we
did. Then, the boarding school. Hiram Read, a sociology professor,
headed a group that made a survey of Penn in '47, that in terms of
teacher certification, equipment, and everything, it would take a
million dollar endowment to make it a feasible operation and suggested
closing Penn School and getting into something else. They worked out an
agreement with the Board of Education of the county, the northern
do-gooders, that (1) the teachers would be hired by the county. They
would operate the school on Penn grounds but that Penn would be
responsible for the deficit up to $10,000 a year to subsidize
our Christian school; that there would be no director for at least a
period of two years. It closed in '48 and we came in '50. We began
trying to see first as a community organization.
But in '55 the decision had been made that we would make this available
for integrated groups and this was in time for the Supreme Court
Decision and we brought an AFC group down there. That changed the whole
attitude in the white community toward what we were doing. Before it had
been a black operation which they could tolerate for a hundred years.
These northern ladies and so forth. It was the only place of its kind
where we could stay integrated and stay overnight. King came down and
sort of got to know . Then I was a consultant to
the commission. I was on this committee that they tried to put together.
They failed 3 times before. They sent us a note through the mail that
said, "We're not telegraphing and we're not doing anything.
Meet us at a certain place in Columbia." The South Carolina
Advisory Committee, and you will find out who the other people are on
the committee. That was in '57 to '59. So about a year later, we had two
staff people in Washington for all 48 committees. They had five
consultants to work on a part-time basis. I had from Virginia to
Arkansas was my territory for several years. So, it was a very tiny