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Penn Center, Saint Helena Island

Must see · Historic Site · Tourist Spot
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The Penn Center, formerly the Penn School, is an African-American cultural and educational center in the Corners Community, on Saint Helena Island. Founded in 1862 by Quaker and Unitarian missionaries from Pennsylvania, it was the first school founded in the Southern United States specifically for the education of African-Americans. It provided critical educational facilities to Gullah slaves freed after plantation owners fled the island, and continues to fulfill an educational mission. Leigh Richmond Miner photographed students and activities at the school.
The campus was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1974. Darrah Hall and Brick Baptist Church on the campus were declared part of Reconstruction Era National Monument in January 2017. In spring of 2019, it became the Reconstruction Era National Historic Park, along with Fort Sumter.
To visit Penn Center and other attractions in Saint Helena Island, use our Saint Helena Island vacation builder.
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Penn Center reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.0
217 reviews
Google
4.6
TripAdvisor
  • Reconstruction history was brought to life with the short film and the rich and varied exhibits. After completing the ranger-guided program that morning in Beaufort, a visit to Penn Center provided a....  more
    Reconstruction history was brought to life with the short film and the rich and varied exhibits. After completing the ranger-guided program that morning in Beaufort, a visit to Penn Center provided a....  more »
  • I visited the Penn center on September 15 with a group of travelers. I was so proud to have the opportunity to have Dr Gibb teach us about the history of the Gullah Geechee culture and the slave... 
    I visited the Penn center on September 15 with a group of travelers. I was so proud to have the opportunity to have Dr Gibb teach us about the history of the Gullah Geechee culture and the slave...  more »
  • We went for a second time to Penn Center this last week. It's hallowed ground and worth every penny to gain the knowledge offered here. 
    We went for a second time to Penn Center this last week. It's hallowed ground and worth every penny to gain the knowledge offered here.  more »
Google
  • It was closed on Thanksgiving but we were able to walk around. It was emotional to see a little bit of history. I am very grateful for the individuals who made it possible to educate my people back then. The negative part of history mustn't repeat itself.
  • A must visit destination for anyone in the area. The museum is packed with history, preserving the important legacy of Penn School. Do yourself a favor and set aside an entire afternoon to soak in all that Penn Center has to offer.
  • Penn Center is worth making a special trip. Dr. Gibbs was knowledgeable, inspiring, and kind. We felt the love for the history and legacy of Penn Center, St. Helena Island, and the Gullah Geechee heritage. We look forward to returning. Highly recommend visiting.
  • I completed agricultural training for the Peace Corps here a few decades ago. It’s still a magical place to visit and I hope to see more people here. It offers docent and self-guided tours, houses daily or overnight events, and still offers educational opportunities for children, over 100 years after it began. You can find information about rentals at penncenter.com as well as through Airbnb. The community garden, previously used as a Peace Corps training area where I learned a great deal about vegetable gardening, is now used as gardens for the local community. I'd love to see the facility used more widely as a learning institution.
  • Great place full of wonderful and new historic insights. Visited with tour group so we moved through pretty fast but worth every moment (plus more) spent here

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