CHERAW---The Coulter Memorial Academy provided a further education for African Americans in Chesterfield County.
Coulter was founded in 1881 by the Presbyterian Board of Missions for Freedom. The school was owned and operated by the board. The building was a two-story building.
When the school opened, it was an elementary school housing first grade through sixth grade.
The average school year in South Carolina was 4.4 months. In rural areas like Chesterfield County, the average school year was 2.1 months per year.
Coulter students were in school for seven months, exceeding the state's average.
An education past the sixth grade wasn't a possibility for African American students. Coulter then made a transition. The school then held seventh grade though junior college. Coulter gave African American students a chance that they had never had before and gave them a more extensive education.
The school operated from 1881 to 1955.
Odessa Jackson, Coulter Memorial Academy Alumnus and a member of the Coulter Executive Committee says that Coulter was very important in shaping African American minds.
"If you lived out in the country and you finished the seventh grade, that was it," Jackson said. "There wasn't another option unless you went to Coulter. Coulter Memorial Academy was so important for many of us because it gave us a chance to get a further education. That's why it's so important for us to try to keep Coulter alive."
Jackson says without a Coulter education, she wouldn't have been able to get into the field she wanted to get into.
"I wouldn't have been able to teach in Cheraw for 32 years if it had not been for Coulter," Jackson said. "If it wasn't for Coulter, a lot of us wouldn't have been able to get anywhere in life. We had a chance to finish high school and junior college. We could start teaching once we finished junior college. Most parents didn't have the money to send their children anywhere else."
Jackson says she would like to see the students of today have a better appreciation for the opportunities they have in school and what's in front of them.
"When we were in school, we didn't have all the equipment or computers," Jackson said. "The young people today need to take advantage of their opportunities that are in front of them. Stop getting in trouble and take advantage of what's in front of you. I think it's sad that some of the children today don't apply themselves."
The Coulter Memorial Academy reunion was held Mar. 20-22. On Mar. 22, Brigadier General Nolen Bivens was the guest speaker for the evening.
Bivens talked about the history of the Coulter Memorial Academy. He also talked about the impact that Coulter alumni, along with Long High alumni had on the community.