Two Orangeburg landmarks recognized for their significance in African American civil rights history have received federal funds toward their preservation, Congressman James E. Clyburn announced this week.

Trinity United Methodist Church will receive $500,000 toward its repair and preservation. Claflin University will receive $50,000 toward a historic structure report and preservation plan for Trustee Hall.

The Historic Preservation Fund grants were provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service.

“These grants will benefit places, like Trinity United Methodist Church, all across the nation to help tell an essential piece of that story through the African American struggle for civil rights and equality,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said in a press release.

Clyburn said, “As a strong supporter of historic preservation, I am thrilled that so many critically important but endangered historic sites and stories from the civil rights era will be preserved by today’s funding announcement."

The Rev. Mack McClam said Trinity UMC has played an important role in history.

"Trinity has been a pillar of support throughout the years for the community and the state, especially for the civil rights era," McClam said. "It is our hope not only to keep the legacy alive but to continue to find ways to share God's word and lead God's people and to transform lives."

Congress voted for the African American Civil Rights Grants Program in 2016 through the Historic Preservation Fund.

The fund uses revenue from federal oil leases on the outer continental shelf, providing assistance for a broad range of preservation projects.

Clyburn noted that Congress increased support for the grants program from $8 million to $13 million for 2017.

Trinity UMC was founded in 1866 as Trinity Methodist Episcopal. The first congregation occupied a small schoolhouse built by the Freedman's Bureau.

The church’s present structure on Boulevard Street was started in 1928 and completed in 1944. During the Great Depression, the church worshiped in the basement because there had been a lull in construction.

Trinity UMC served as headquarters for the Orangeburg Movement during the 1960s, hosting many civil rights meetings and rallies attended by leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins and Thurgood Marshall.

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Students from Claflin and South Carolina State would gather in the basement of Trinity during this time. They were fed and trained on how to execute nonviolent protests.

In 2016, the church celebrated its 150 years of existence.

The church is home to a childcare center, an afterschool program, an award-winning Boy Scout program, a children’s garden, a year-round soup kitchen and a wellness initiative that enables Trinity to minister beyond its walls.

The church possesses one of the largest collections of stained glass windows in the South Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. A book, "The Windows of Trinity," was published in 2015 in celebration of the church's 150th anniversary.

Trustee Hall was built in 1893 under Claflin University's third president, the Rev. Lewis Dunton.

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The building made it possible for Claflin to offer additional training in industry and trade.

Trustee Hall is the oldest remaining structure on the campus.

A recent evaluation of the building revealed the need for an investment in adequate life safety systems; new windows and heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical system improvements.

Claflin University Vice President for Administration Drexel Ball said the funds will be used to maintain the historic integrity of the building.

"Certainly the funds are very much welcome," Ball said. "We are pleased to receive that kind of support to upgrade a very important building on the campus.”

Statewide, the Department of the Interior provided $643,084 in grants for historical preservation.

Other grant recipients in the state include:

  • Historic Charleston Foundation for its project, “Documenting and Sharing the History of Mosquito Beach and its role in the Civil Rights Movement” -- $43,084
  • Charleston County government’s, “A Journey to Equal Education: Stories from Historic African American Communities” -- $50,000

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.


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