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Avery Institute originated in the Saxton School, which was founded by Francis L. Cardoza in 1865 as a school for African American students. In response to Cardoza's appeal for a secondary school for advanced students, the American Missionary Association purchased a lot on Bull Street and constructed this three-story brick building c. 1868.
By 1880 Avery Institute had almost 500 students who were taught by an integrated staff including both Charlestonians and northerners. Many of South Carolina's most prominent African American leaders received their education here. By 1947 Avery became a public school, which closed its doors in 1954.
Today, the building houses the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture. Based at the College of Charleston, it is an archives, research center, and museum.