By Martine Wolfe-Miller, Mount Pleasant Communications Officer
MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (May 27, 2016) – Laing Middle School Principal James Whitehair and the Mount Pleasant Historical Commission recently held a ceremony to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Laing Middle School at the newly opened Sweetgrass Campus. Mount Pleasant Mayor Linda Page proclaimed the year 2016, a year of commemoration and celebration of Laing’s sesquicentennial.
“As we celebrate our first year in the new building, it is only fitting to celebrate the people who have made Laing what it is today,” said Principal Whitehair addressing a dozen of Laing High School alumni in attendance at the ceremony. “Try to excel has been the longstanding motto of Laing and the message I would like to share with our students is ‘you have in you the power to excel’.”
Dorothy Fludd, a librarian and Laing alumna recalled her years as student and teacher at the school. “I was part of the second graduating class in 1954,” she said. “Laing has a great history among the community and the state. I invite residents to remember and share that history with the Mount Pleasant Historical Commission.”
“The role of Laing, founded at the end of the Civil War, came to calm chaos and incorporate the black community in the fabric of Mount Pleasant. I encourage members of the community to explore its rich heritage,” said Mount Pleasant Historical Commissioner Patrick Morrissey.
Also in attendance at the ceremony were Mount Pleasant Historical Commission Chair Rick Gutowski and Commissioner Heidi Schless. Principal Whitehair recognized Mrs. Fludd, Mrs. Charlotte Jenkins, Mrs. Pearl Ascue and Mr. Morrissey for their contributions to the sesquicentennial ceremonies.
The proclamation read as follows:
WHEREAS, in the aftermath of the Civil War, Cornelia Hancock, a Quaker and former Union Army nurse, with the financial backing of the Friends Association for the Aid and Elevation of the Freedmen of Philadelphia, determined to provide a school for children of African descent in Mount Pleasant. The school would later be named for Henry M. Laing, a Treasurer of the Friends Association.
WHEREAS, on January 29, 1866, in the then war-damaged Presbyterian Church on Hibben Street, the first class of 50 students assembled for an education focused on citizenship and occupational skills. Among the students were the families of soldiers within United States Colored Troop (U.S.C.T.) regiments stationed in Mt Pleasant.
WHEREAS, in 1868, Laing School moved from a home at 217 Bennett St. to a brick building constructed by the Freedman’s Bureau on land donated by the Town of Mount Pleasant at the corner of King and Royall Avenue. The school grew to an enrollment of 200 students and offered 7 years of instruction in academic courses and industrial arts.
WHEREAS, the earthquake of 1886 destroyed the school, but it was rebuilt and continued on the King and Royall site as Laing Industrial and Normal School under the administration of the Friends Association until 1894, then under the Pennsylvania Abolition Society as trustee until 1940, and was then deeded to Consolidated School District #5, Charleston County, with a stipulation that the property continue in use forever for the education of children of African descent. Laing was the first accredited black school in the state.
WHEREAS, Laing High School, fed by a new Laing Elementary built in the Greenwich neighborhood, expanded the curriculum to 12 years of instruction, before moving to Highway 17 North and 6 Mile Road in 1953, to a new building which served as the Laing High School campus until 1970, when it was closed with the desegregation of Charleston County Schools.
WHEREAS, the Laing High School campus served as the 8th grade campus for Wando in the early 70’s and then, in 1974, as Laing Middle School, which then moved to Mathis Ferry Road as Laing Middle School of Science and Technology in 2009, before moving to its current campus on Bulrush Basket Lane in 2015.
WHEREAS, from its founding in a war-damaged church in 1866, through segregation and desegregation, and under various names such as Laing School, the Negro School, the Industrial and Normal School, Laing High School and Laing Middle School, Laing schools and educators have made a profound and sustained contribution to the history and culture of Mount Pleasant, having produced graduates of ability, character and distinction for 150 years.
For more information about the Historical Commission, visit “Our History” online at www.tompsc.com or download our new Town App ConnectMP. To view the photos of the ceremony, like us on Facebook at “tompsc.” To read our historical updates, sign up for our historical Quick Fact Friday by emailing email@example.com.