Researching the history of a school takes time. Most schools do not have any printed history, and you may be the first to attempt pulling together a history. However, it may be worth your time to see if any alumni groups, students, or teachers have written a school history. The history should be on file at the school’s library or may be found in yearbooks, graduation programs, or the school’s website. If you are the first to write a history, here are some tips to get you started.
The first place you should begin your research is with the school district. The district may have records that can give you the date of construction, any name changes to the school, and dates for additions or renovations. School board meeting minutes are a great place to start in getting these dates. The district may also have architectural plans related to your school, information on principals, teachers, and students, or news clippings files. Each school district is different in the retention of these records, so you may need to talk to several different departments in the district, such as the administration department, finance department, and maintenance departments.
You may also want to find any histories of your county or city that may discuss schools and education. If you are specifically searching for African American school history, keep in mind that many of the county histories only discuss white schools or the larger African American high schools or colleges in the area. Local public libraries should have these histories, and they may have additional resources such as clippings files, historic maps, and newspapers that could aid you in your research.
Don’t forget one of the best sources—the teachers, administrators, and students that attended the school! Alumni stories, collections, and teacher reminiscences are very valuable in completing a school history. Unfortunately, these sources may be the most time-consuming to collect, but the effort is well worth your time.
South Carolina Department of Education, School Insurance Photographs
(Under "Record Group” select “School Insurance Photographs, 1935 - 1952”)
This is an online collection, housed in the SC Department of Archives and History's Online Records Index, of photographs of SC schools made between 1935 and 1952. The photographs document both black and white schools.
South Carolina School Directories
Hosted by the South Carolina State Library, these searchable records list the names of schools and principals from 1912-2010. These directories can help you date your school building.
Was your school constructed with money from the Rosenwald Fund? If you think so, visit this page developed by the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office to see the database and other online sources.
Lowcountry Digital Library
This collection of resources from libraries across Lowcountry South Carolina has photographs, newspaper clippings, artifacts, and oral histories that may be useful in your research.
If you do not have the time to conduct research on the history of your school, you may think about hiring a history consultant to research and write the school history. College students or graduate students in history may also be interested in a local history project, so don’t be afraid to contact any local schools! If you are interested in talking with a consultant, start here.