Founded in 1871 by Martha Schofield, a Pennsylvania Quaker, this Aiken school for freed slaves remained a center of education for black South Carolinians for more than seventy years. The school’s initial financial support came from Schofield, the John F. Slater Fund, and other Quakers from Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, these contributions proved to be inadequate, and the financial burden fell entirely to Schofield, who used her personal fortune to sustain the school until she resigned in 1912. The school operated in the original Freedman’s Bureau school building until 1882, when a new building was constructed. The school began as a day school, and from its beginning the goal was to prepare teachers who were desperately needed in the state’s rural black schools. As with most freedmen’s schools, the curriculum was a simplified version of the classical course of study.
Schofield was also the site for a summer Colored Teachers’ Institute where teaching methods, teacher qualifications, and community-school relations were discussed. With more than twenty years of training teachers, the state board of education recognized the school’s success by granting it university status in 1908, and later graduates were automatically licensed to teach without taking county or state examinations. Initially vocal in their animosity toward the school and its students, the white community eventually came to praise the students for their dependability and skills. The school joined the Aiken school system in 1953 as a public high school for blacks. Since integration in the 1960s, Schofield has served Aiken County as a public middle school, and the bell tower from the original building still sat on the Sumter Street campus in the early twenty-first century.
Smedley, Katherine. Martha Schofield and the Re-education of the South, 1839–1916. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 1987.
———. “Martha Schofield and the Rights of Women.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 85 (July 1984): 195–210.
Toole, Gasper Loren. Ninety Years in Aiken County: Memoirs of Aiken County and Its People. N.p., n.d.