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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Biddle Hall in 1997
Biddle Hall in 1997 before restoration. The stones used to construct the building were made by boys enrolled in the NYA (National Youth Administration) program at Bettis Academy Photo: James J. Lanham

The Bettis Academy: Restoration, Preservation, Heritage Museum, and Tourist Project

Founded by Rev. Alexander Bettis, a former slave, the Bettis Academy was established as a school for African-Americans at a time when educational opportunities for blacks were practically nonexistent. Bettis purchased 27 acres of land, at $3 an acre, on July 4, 1881, on which was erected a one-room frame building, opening its doors on January 1, 1882. A Baptist minister, Bettis established the Academy based on religious principles and Christian character, and determined its primary focus to be the spiritual and industrial training of Negro youth, with emphasis on teacher education. The school had a "commodity card" stipulating the kinds and amounts of farm-raised produce parents could bring to the school in lieu of cash for board. This afforded the opportunity for many students whose parents were poor to attend the Academy. Bettis served as the school's president until his death in 1895.

The Academy was accredited as a junior college in 1933. When it closed in 1952, the campus contained 14 major buildings on 350 acres. Buildings still standing include the Alexander Bettis Community Library, where collections documenting the history of the Academy are displayed and housed; Biddle Hall, a former home economics classroom building now under restoration; a classroom building, a one-story stucco building used for instruction in the Sciences and Social Studies. When its restoration is completed, Biddle Hall will house the African-American Heritage Museum and Cultural Center. Located on the campus is Bettis Park, a tranquil community park with a walking track and facilities for softball, baseball, and soccer. The campus is also the site of an annual event "March for Parks-Earth Day Expo," which raises awareness and funds for America's national, state, and local public parks. The Academy, located in Edgefield County, South Carolina (16 miles north of Augusta, Georgia), is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The project was done by the Bettis Academy Heritage Team, whose goal is to collect, organize, preserve, and display information relating to the history and influence of the Academy and to restore, preserve, and maintain the buildings remaining on the Bettis Academy campus. The Bettis Academy project is documented in 26 photographs and accompanying descriptions, 14 pages of text, a copy of A Brief Sketch of the Life and Labors of Rev. Alexander Bettis, a brochure for the junior college, and a 1999 brochure for "March for Parks-Earth Day Expo."

Originally submitted by: Lindsey O. Graham, Representative (3rd District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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