Laing School in Mount Pleasant had been called by different names since its establishment in an abandoned church in 1866. Cornelia Hancock, a Civil War nurse and Quaker from New Jersey, is credited with founding the school and served as its first principal. The school was named for Henry M. Laing, treasurer of both the Friends Association for the Aid and Elevation of the Freedmen of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, each of which supported the school financially. Its mission was to educate former slaves and inspire them to strive for high ideals and good citizenship and to make worthwhile contributions to society.
The school began with fifty pupils in the remains of the Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church. In October 1867 it moved to a brick mansion provided by the Freedmen’s Bureau. In 1868 the bureau built a two-story school building on the corner of King Street and Royall Avenue, on land donated by the town of Mount Pleasant. Enrollment at the coeducational school soon grew to more than two hundred. Known as the Laing Industrial School, the institution grew and offered seven years of schooling along with courses in sewing, cooking, cobbling, and manual training. An earthquake destroyed the school in 1886, but it was rebuilt on the same site. In 1894 the Pennsylvania Abolition Society became trustee of the school, which it deeded to Charleston County in 1940. It became part of the public school system in 1938 and was the first accredited school for African Americans in South Carolina. The building was condemned and closed in 1953, but a new school, Laing High School, opened that same year on U.S. Highway 17 north of Mount Pleasant.
Since 1974 the institution has operated as Laing Middle School. A South Carolina Highway Marker, which was erected by the Laing High School Alumni Association, stands at the site of the original Laing School.
Bacon, Margaret Hope. The Quiet Rebels: The Story of Quakers in America. New York: Basic, 1969.
Munro, Abby D. Papers. South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.
One Hundredth Anniversary: Laing High School 1866–1966. Mount Pleasant, S.C.: Laing High School Teachers and Students, 1966.