By Jennifer McKee
Like so many cultural institutions, the Center for African American History, Art and Culture in Aiken has been closed due to COVID-19. But that will all change on June 19, when it hosts a festive and commemorative event for Juneteenth, a day that marks the freedom of those once enslaved in the United States.
More than just a celebration, Juneteenth is also a time for reflection and remembrance. From noon-3 pm, the CAAHAC commemorates the end of slavery with cultural demonstrations, musical performances, health screenings, local vendors and small group tours. It takes place in Heritage Park, next door to the CAAHAC (at 120 York St. NE) and is free.
The public is encouraged to bring lawn chairs; masks and physical distancing is recommended.
The mission of the CAAHAC is to preserve the Immanuel Institute Building (its home) and to create interactive programs that educate, inspire and demonstrate the many contributions of African Americans to Aiken County, South Carolina, and the region.
The Immanuel Institute Building pays homage to Reverend W.R. Coles, an African American Presbyterian missionary, who moved to Aiken in 1881 and established a church and a school for freed slaves in a small six-room house on Newberry Street. As the school grew, he built the Immanuel Institute in 1889. The building’s exterior has been restored to its 1989 appearance.