Thing to Do

Tour the Avery Research Center

The Avery Normal Institute in 1870, surrounded by picket fence.

Founded by Francis Lewis Cardozo, the Avery Normal Institute was the first secondary school for African Americans in the city of Charleston. A “Normal” school is one that trains teachers.


At the end of the Civil War in 1865, Cardozo wanted to establish an educational institute to teach newly freed African Americans. Under slavery, enslaved people were not allowed to read or write. Cardozo recognized that in order to be successful as newly freed people, African Americans needed educational opportunities.


After Cardozo received a $10,000 grant from the estate of Reverend Charles Avery, construction on the school began in 1867. The school was designed in the Italianate style with an arched entry, cupola, and piazzas running the length of the building and opening into classrooms. Further financial assistance was received from the Freedmen's Bureau, local merchants, and the American Missionary Association of New York City, who also staffed the school.


Operated as a private institution, the Avery Normal Institute served Charleston's most prominent African American families. Many of the teachers at the school were from the local black community and were former students themselves. By 1900, enrollment had reached nearly 500. In 1947, the institute became a public city school.


Currently known as the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, the center is part of the College of Charleston.


Explore More!

  • Tour the museum located in the research center, or participate in an educational program.

  • The Avery Research Center also features a permanent exhibit of a recreated nineteenth century classroom. Experience what it was like attending school over 100 years ago.

Return to the Resilience & Freedom Trip Idea or discover more of Charleston’s stories.  

Entrance fees may apply, see Fees & Passes information.

Last updated: April 28, 2020