Columbia Cultural Sites
African American History Monument
DESCRIPTION: Dedicated in 2001, the monument is the first of its kind on any of the nation’s statehouse grounds. It was designed to recapture the rich history of African Americans and their contributions to South Carolina. Sculptor Ed Dwight modeled the monument after an African village built in the round; the center obelisk represents spirituality and is reminiscent of the pyramids in Egypt. Its base is a nine-foot bronzed ship icon with 336 enslaved African s chained together in the bowels of the vessel. A map of the African continent is mounted in granite and at the base of the map, visitors are encouraged to touch the four rubbing stones from Senegal, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and The Congo, where most African slaves were first sold.
ADDRESS: South Carolina State House facing Sumter Street, Columbia, SC MAP
DESCRIPTION: Founded in 1870 by the American Baptist Mission Society to educate freed men and their descendants. It includes five buildings on the National Register of Historic Places; Morgan Hall, Pratt Hall, Duckett Hall, Starks Center, and Antisdel Chapel. Morgan Hall is the oldest building on the campus, built in 1895. Over 1895–1965, it served as home of five Benedict presidents. It’s named for Thomas J. Morgan, who served as executive secretary of the American Baptist Home Mission Society and editor of the society’s influential Home Mission Monthly. During the Civil War, Morgan was a colonel of the 14th United States Colored Infantry; Antisdel Chapel was built in 1932 by Benedict’s first Black President, Dr. John J. Starks, is a campus landmark and served as a center of Black activities in Columbia before desegregation of public facilities. President David H. Swinton helped the college’s growth and resurgence. In 1998, he became the first African American elected chairman of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce. The city’s Black community continues to use the building for meetings, lectures, concerts and other functions.
ADDRESS: 1600 Harden Street, Columbia, SC MAP
Ponder Fine Arts Gallery
DESCRIPTION: Collection of African American art from the early 20th century to the present. Gallery director Tyrone Geter also features some of his artwork.
DAYS & HOURS: Mon–Fri 10a–4p
ADDRESS: 1600 Harden Street, Room 203 at Benedict College, Columbia, SC MAP
Matthew J. Perry, Jr. U.S. Courthouse
DESCRIPTION: Named for the attorney who led the struggle for desegregation in South Carolina, served as a primary legal advocate in the national civil rights movement, and became South Carolina’s first African American U.S. District Court judge. The intricate iron gates in front were crafted by the great ironmaster, Philip Simmons of Charleston.
ADDRESS: 901 Richland Street, Columbia, SC MAP
DESCRIPTION: Circa 1870, originally called Payne Institute, this was probably the first private Black school in the states, founded in 1870 by the African Methodist Episcopal Church to focus on the education of African American ministers, lawyers, nurses and teachers. The National Register historic district includes five buildings: Arnett Hall, Coppin Hall, Chappelle Administration Building, Flipper Library, and the Canteen. The Chappelle Administration Building was designed by a nationally prominent architect, J.A. Lankford, who was also the first registered Black architect in the U.S. and official architect of the AME church.
ADDRESS: 1530 Harden Street, Columbia, SC MAP
Auntie Karen Foundation
DESCRIPTION: Karen Alexander formed this non-profit organization to empower, enlighten, and educate through the arts. Her programs are presented to schools, churches, and community organizations to help tell South Carolina’s African American history.
ADDRESS: 3419 Hazelhurst Road, Columbia, SC MAP
Bill Pinkney Park
DESCRIPTION: Birth site of the legendary R&B singer of the original Drifters who rose to prominence in the 1950s. A marble monument, complete with a bust of the entertainer by artist Axel Reis, and a community building are on site.
ADDRESS: Camden Highway site in Sumter County, Dalzell, SC MAP