A Georgetown County school received national recognition for its efforts to get people on the voter rolls and increase literacy during the civil rights movement.
The Sandy Island school was added to the African American Civil Rights Network in September. Before the school was built, children were educated in homes and churches, according to the National Park Service, which coordinates the network. The network was created in 2017 and rewards different groups for their efforts against discrimination and segregation.
“The school embodies the self-reliance of the Sandy Island community in the face of uneven and scarce educational resources for African Americans throughout the twentieth century,” the school page on the National Park Service website reads.
In the 1950s, the school included adult education classes aimed at increasing literacy in order to facilitate the voting process.
“Learn to read to know how to vote,” was a refrain among civic leaders of the time, according to the National Park Service.
Georgetown County voter registration increased 85% between 1958 and 1962, in part thanks to the Sandy Island School as well as the NAACP, the Progressive Democratic Party, and the Georgetown County Negro Adult School program.
“It was used for adult education, to enable them in the 1950s and early 1960s to take literacy tests in order to vote,” Robin Salmon, who works with the historic collections at Brookgreen Gardens and helped preserve Sandy Island’s history, told WMBF News. “Thanks to this education, the residents of Sandy Islanders and other residents of Georgetown County were able to vote. The percentage was quite high and that’s another big problem.