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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Elizabeth and Courtney Siceloff, July 8, 1985. Interview F-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

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

DALLAS BLANCHARD Where were y'all in 1960? ELIZABETH SICELOFF We were at Penn School and very much involved. COURTNEY SICELOFF '50 to '69. DALLAS BLANCHARD That long? That's a long time. Well then you were kind of isolated from the civil rights movement? ELIZABETH SICELOFF It came there. DALLAS BLANCHARD In what way? COURTNEY SICELOFF 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 group.