While there was an emphasis on teacher education, the school’s primary focus was on industrial training. At a time when the state neglected the education of its black citizens, Bettis Academy offered educational opportunities when few professions were open to blacks.
Established in Trenton (Edgefield County) in 1881 by the Reverend Alexander Bettis, this school provided former slaves and their children with a basic education of reading and writing as well as skills and trades. A former slave who could neither write nor read, Bettis organized the Mt. Canaan Missionary and Educational Union to raise the $300 used in purchasing the land for the boarding school. While there was an emphasis on teacher education, the school’s primary focus was on industrial training. At a time when the state neglected the education of its black citizens, Bettis Academy offered educational opportunities when few professions were open to blacks. Consisting of fourteen buildings, the school was accredited by the state as a junior college in 1933. This course of study allowed graduates to teach in South Carolina’s elementary schools or enter four-year colleges as juniors. Beginning in 1940 the school was overseen by interested northerners, such as Clement Biddle and Alice Angell, who obtained a grant from the General Education Board, a philanthropic organization established by John D. Rockefeller in 1903. Funds were used to construct a seven-room home-economics building and to purchase farm equipment and vehicles. Bettis closed in 1952 when South Carolina began improving statewide public education for blacks. In 1998 Bettis Academy and Junior College was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Bettis Academy. Records, 1939–1948. South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.
Nicholson, Alfred W. Brief Sketch of the Life and Labors of Rev. Alexander Bettis; Also an Account of the Founding and Development of the Bettis Academy. Trenton, S.C.: by the author, 1913.