College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities

Clemson’s Historic Preservation program empowering African American communities to present and protect their stories


Clemson University’s Master of Science in Historic Preservation program is the recipient of two grants that will support local community organizations working to preserve African American history in South Carolina.

“In both cases, we’re leveraging our expertise to help communities to protect their own heritage,” said Jon Marcoux, associate professor and director of Clemson’s graduate program in Historic Preservation. “This is a collaboration. We’re going to build capacity for people to tell their own stories.”

The first grant, from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation, will support a partnership between Clemson’s Historic Preservation program and Warren Lasch Conservation Center (WLCC) and the Seashore Farmer’s Lodge on Sol Legare Island.

The Seashore Farmers Lodge is a historic site for South Carolina’s Gullah Geechee community. In the early 1900s the Farmer’s Lodge was an important social center. The lodge has been restored and repurposed as a museum in recent years. The $100,000 grant from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation will support the development of an education program for volunteers and community members at the Seashore Farmer’s Lodge to preserve historical artifacts. It will also support the conservation of high-priority historical items by the WLCC.

“The Seashore Farmers Lodge will benefit from this partnership because it will allow us to train and educate the community at large,” said Ernest Parks, chief curator of the Seashore Farmer’s Lodge. “Part of the program is to have the community members come in and be educated on how to preserve historical artifacts, organize and take stock of their collections, thus empowering the Seashore Farmers Lodge Museum and Cultural Center to take care of itself through community involvement.”

The second grant, from the Vernacular Architecture Forum and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will support the John’s Island Community Field School. The $250,000 grant will provide scholarships for approximately ten undergraduate college students or residents with cultural ties to Gullah Geechee communities to attend a three-week summer field school, learning to document historic structures from the Reconstruction and Civil Rights eras on John’s Island.

“We want undergraduates to be aware of the career fields that can help Black communities preserve their history,” Marcoux said.

The field school will be hosted through a partnership among the Clemson University and College of Charleston graduate program in historic preservation (MSHP), the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture (ARC) at the College of Charleston (CofC), the Progressive Club (PC) and the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission (GGCHCC).  

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