In 1978, a group of Avery graduates (Averyites) and friends of Avery organized The Avery Institute of Afro-American History and Culture. Its purpose was to obtain the old Avery Normal School buildings and establish in them an archives and museum dedicated to preserving Afro-American history and culture in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Its first president was the Honorable Lucille S. Whipper, a former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from Charleston County.
To fullfill its long term goals, the organization realized it had to affiliate with an academic institution. The College of Charleston provided that link. The two groups jointly sought and obtained a federal planning grant in 1981 to plan programs and explore future options. Out of the planning grant came the concept of a center, “a cooperative project of the Avery Institute of Afro-American History and Culture and the College of Charleston.” The College subsequently deeded the 123 and 125 Bull Street properties.
In 1985, The Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture was established as part of the academic program of the College of Charleston. Despite delays caused by the ravages of Hurricane Hugo (September 21, 1989), the grand opening of the building took place on October 6, 1990. After twelve years of strenuous effort, the Avery Institute of Afro-American History and Culture saw its dream finally realized.
Today the Avery Institute is a separate non-profit organization and provides support to the Center’s programs and operations, as well as assisting the Center in acquiring archival collections.