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
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).
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.