CHERAW – For the last 14 years, Felicia Flemming-McCall of Cheraw, has devoted her life to the family business, Flemming Funeral Homes, Inc. located in Chesterfield, Cheraw and Pageland. However, after her book, “African Americans of Chesterfield County,” was published in 2008, she continued unraveling the rich history of African Americans in Chesterfield County.
“While working on my book, it was like opening Pandora’s box. Exploring stories that I never heard concerning African Americans in Chesterfield County. It was a lot of work but very rewarding,” Flemming-McCall said. “Serving in the death care business is a ministry, I often question my families about the life of their loved one who has passed away. Working so intimately with a family often leads them to sharing wonderful stories about the memories they have of their loved one.”
After completing her book, it was apparent that Flemming-McCall needed to weave these individual stories into a larger story because she felt there needed to be some continuity in telling the African American experience in Chesterfield County. Her passion to keep African American heritage alive prompted the genesis of the first Southern African American museum in Chesterfield County, located at 125 Kershaw St.
“I feel like it was my charge from God to tell our story in an effective and accurate way, bringing some continuity to our history. You can’t weave a quilt if you don’t have all of the pieces. It’s the same way for us. We had the pieces but needed to sew the fabrics together to create this amazing quilt for all to witness,” Flemming-McCall said.
According to Flemming-McCall, the museum has been a work in progress for over a decade and was not birthed over night. Her dedication and efforts to fulfill her dream so others could relish the silent history behind every piece displayed, makes this a unique establishment for Chesterfield County.
“I wanted to make sure that when I opened my doors, I had given my all to the vision God gave me. God has shown me that I have a lot to be thankful for and that it is important to give back to the community and pave the way for others. I want to inspire others through the lives and contributions of those who came before us. I want to highlight that if (African Americans) could arise from slavery, Jim Crow, and other injustices to leave a legacy and make great strides for the betterment of their family and the communities they lived in, surely we should continue to promote, preserve and leave our own legacy that benefits the welfare of not only our family but the community as a whole,” Flemming-McCall said.
She went on to say that Chesterfield County is known for many historical attributes but African American history and preservation had not been at the forefront.
“You cannot tell the complete history of Chesterfield County and leave out the many contributions of African Americans,” She said. “I believe that history belongs to everyone and I hope visitors will gain a better appreciation and understanding from the perspective of African Americans citizens in this county. After learning about the people who made selfless sacrifices, I shall never take for granted the shoulders I stand on.”
The Southern African American Heritage Center is dedicated to collecting, documenting and preserving the contributions of African Americans from Chesterfield County. Visitors will find documents and artifacts on display that offer an insight into local history and culture for African Americans from the 1800s to the mid 1900s.
Features of the center’s collection include Dizzy Gillespie, Coulter Memorial Academy, Long High School, Civil Rights documents, church history and photographs.
It also offers Heritage Walking Tours within the town limits, highlighting African American landmarks, including educational tours and programs for public, private and home school students, day-cares and youth groups to get them energized about learning African American History. A gift shop showcases toys, gourmet foods, jewelry, CD’s, books, African instruments and many more gifts.
Flemming added that a small fee for touring the museum is required. For more information or to schedule a tour of the museum, call Felicia Flemming-McCall at 843-921-9989.