Dorchester Academy was founded as a primary school for African-American children by the American Missionary Association after the Civil War. The dormitory, designed by Norwegian-born architect George Awsumb in 1934 to replace an 1890s structure lost to fire in 1932, is all that remains of a once-larger campus. After the school closed in 1940, demolition of the campus took place. The boys’ dormitory became the community center and still serves that purpose.
During the Civil Rights Movement it was the primary site of the Citizenship Education Program (CEP) (1961-70), an important initiative of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). This was seen as the basis for the highly successful Voter Education Project (VEP). One of the prime boosters of the CEP was Septima Poinsette Clark, a Charleston school teacher referred to as the “Queen Mother of the Civil Rights Movement”. The work of this and other so-called “citizenship schools” trained over 700 teachers and registered 50,000 voters by 1963.
Workshops were often held at the site with numerous civil rights icons in attendance, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young, Wyatt Walker, and Dorothy Cotton.
National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark