Voorhees College – Denmark, South Carolina
South Carolina | SC Picture Project | Bamberg County Photos | Voorhees College
Voorhees College is an accredited four-year liberal arts college in Denmark. The historically black college began as one woman’s vision for black schools in the rural, segregated South. Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, a graduate of Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, was so inspired by Washington and her own education that she made it her mission to open black schools where there were voids.
Wright arrived to Bamberg County in the late nineteenth century and started the Denmark Institutional School in 1897. In 1902 New Jersey philanthropist Ralph Voorhees donated funding towards the school’s first building, and the school officially opened with Wright serving as principal. It was the only black high school in the area. The school needed further funding, however, and in 1924 the Episcopal-affiliated American Church Institutes for Negroes stepped in and offered support. By 1947 the school became the Voorhees School Junior College, it and received its four-year accreditation in 1962.
Today the school is led by Dr. Cleveland Sellers, an activist during the civil rights movement who was injured during the Orangeburg Massacre. The incident galvanized Sellers to become an educator. Dr. Sellers also serves as warden of the college’s St. Philip’s Chapel, built for the school in 1935. Voorhees College maintains a strong relationship with the Episcopal church, and students can attend services on campus, which also welcomes residents of the community.
The Booker T. Washington Building, pictured below, was built as a hospital in 1905. It was designed by a professor from Claflin College, a neighboring black college in Orangeburg, and was built solely by African Americans. Today it serves as an administration building for Voorhees.
Voorhees College is listed in the National Register, which adds the following:
Voorhees College was founded in 1897 as Denmark Industrial School by Miss Elizabeth Evelyn Wright. The Voorhees College Historic District is comprised of thirteen contributing buildings built between 1905 and 1935. The district’s significance is derived from its importance as a pioneer in higher education for African Americans in the area and from its association with Elizabeth Wright, teacher, humanitarian and founder of Voorhees. Elizabeth Wright’s determination to establish a school for poor African Americans based on the ideals of her mentor, Booker T. Washington, for whom the 1905 hospital was named, never wavered in the face of anger, distrust and prejudice. Her high ideals inspired those who worked with her as well as her benefactors. In 1923 Voorhees became affiliated with the Protestant Episcopal Church and the American Church Institute for Negroes. Many of the buildings on campus were built by students at the campus. These brick buildings had leaded glass windows, curvilinear gables, dentil moldings, decorative brickwork, and cupolas. The buildings were not simply utilitarian but reflected an admiration for architectural design and a desire to master masonry techniques.
Voorhees College Info
Address: 481 Porter Drive, Denmark, SC 29042
Voorhees College Map
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