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Fri, 12.03.1897

Voorhees College is Founded

*On this date in 1897, Voorhees College was founded.  This is a private, Historically Black College (HBCU) in Denmark, South Carolina. It is affiliated with The Episcopal Church and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.  

In 1897, Elizabeth Evelyn Wright founded Denmark Industrial School for Blacks. Located in a rural area and the small town of Denmark, it was modeled on Tuskegee Institute of Alabama. The first classes were held on the second floor of an old store.  In 1902, Ralph Voorhees, a New Jersey philanthropist, gave the school a donation to purchase land and construct buildings. In 1904 the South Carolina General Assembly renamed the school and incorporated it as the Voorhees Industrial Institute for Colored Youths.  In 1924, the school was affiliated with the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

In 1947, its name was changed to Voorhees School and Junior College. In 1962, with the addition of departments and a four-year curriculum, it became accredited as Voorhees College.  In 1969, the school's predominantly Black student body demanded more Black study programs and the hiring of Black faculty, as well as outreach to assist the local lower-income community of Denmark with scholarships. The Voorhees administration, made up of mostly whites, ignored the students' plea.  A demonstration of 500 students began as a response, which eventually inspired 75 students to command a two-day armed student occupation of the college. The President of Voorhees agreed to the students' demands but filed a formal request to the South Carolina National Guard to subdue the students. The protesters surrendered but were subsequently arrested.  Many were suspended.  

The campus was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 21, 1982. It includes thirteen contributing buildings constructed from 1905 to 1935. The historic district is noteworthy as an example of pioneering education for African Americans in the early 20th century, and for its association with co-founder Elizabeth Evelyn Wright. In addition, the buildings, constructed mostly by students, showed the ambitious design and masonry techniques. Many of these buildings were constructed by the students of Voorhees College as part of their crafts program.  

Voorhees' athletic teams, nicknamed the Tigers, compete as independent members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Voorhees was a full member of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference between 2013 and 2015. Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cheerleading, cross country, and track & field; women's sports include basketball, cheerleading, cross country, softball, track & field and volleyball.   


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