The Penn School and Center: Contributions and Recollections of Ron Daise and of the Gullah Geechee Culture and Music

Property: Penn School / Penn Center Historic District, 16 Penn Center Circle W., St. Helena Island, SC 29920 

Historic Content 

The Penn School, one of the first schools for blacks in the South, was founded in 1862. Laura Towne and Ellen Murray from the Pennsylvania Freedmen's Relief Association (PFRA) were among those who began classes for the freed slaves, which originally took place in "Brick Church," built in 1855. In 1864, the PFRA sent a schoolhouse, ready to be assembled to St. Helena, which is also the birthplace of actor, singer, songwriter and Gullah culture preservationist Mr. Ronald Daise.

Student Learning Objectives: 

1. Students will be able to identify and tell the difference between various styles of spirituals upon hearing. 

2. Students will explore the historical significance of the Penn School and its impact as well as contributions to African Americans within the Sea Islands area. 

3. After viewing the interview, students will discuss the work of Ron Daise in groups, comparing and contrasting what they learned from viewing. 


Amanda Greene
Organization Affiliation
South Carolina African American Heritage Foundation & Thornwell School for the Arts, Darlington County School District
4 class periods
Grade Level
Lesson Plan Subjects