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Midlands Technical College Celebrates 8th Annual Harbison History Day

Feb 27, 2023

The ringing of the bell to commemorate Harbison History Day.

Midlands Technical College (MTC) celebrated Black History Month on Wednesday, February 22 during the 8th Annual Harbison History Day. 

Graduates of the Harbison Institute attended the event where a ceremonial bell ringing occurred followed by a visit to the Historic Upper Pine Grove Cemetery. MTC preserved the 1882 bell and built a bell pavilion in the heart of the Harbison Campus.

“It is always a pleasure to welcome alumni of the Harbison Institute back to campus to celebrate their courage and impact,” said MTC President Dr. Ronald L. Rhames. “Alumni of the Harbison Institute went on to be distinguished teachers, lawyers, and civic leaders who have advanced the mission of cultural heritage in South Carolina. By ringing the bell, we are symbolizing the importance of the Harbison Institute’s history in the state.”

“If the youngsters would know how we had to come up during the times. You had to grapple for everything you got. It wasn't a give it to you or a quick fix or anything, you had to work for it, had get you a good education, get you a good trade so you could be successful in life,” said former student Lionel Smith, who attended the event and spoke to journalists.

A February 22 report from News 19 WLTX about Harbison History Day 2023.

Harbison Institute History
Originally founded in Abbeville in 1882, the Harbison Institute was relocated to the current site of MTC’s Harbison Campus in 1911 and operated there until 1958. During those years, opportunities were very limited for African Americans. Following the institute’s closing in 1958, its land and building were donated to MTC to help continue the legacy of providing access to higher education for African Americans and all students. In 2017, more than 120 legislators sponsored a resolution creating Harbison History Day, honoring the long tradition of multicultural education offered on the site of the MTC Harbison Campus.

Midlands Technical College produced a video documentary entitled “Harbison Institute, In Their Own Words.” The documentary tells the story of this unique educational opportunity for African-American students through the remembrances of some of the individuals who attended the historic college. Several Harbison Institute alumni, some now in their 100s, are featured in the 26-minute video that explains this important era in South Carolina history.

Upper Pine Grove Cemetery
In 2021, the Town of Irmo, MTC, and the Harbison Community Association revitalized the Upper Pine Grove Cemetery. The final resting place of dignitaries including Rev. Calvin M. Young, who was president of the school from 1909 until 1927, was overgrown and unvisitable. The three entities came together to help restore and preserve the cemetery. Among other prominent people buried at the cemetery is Judge Harold R. Boulware, Sr. He was a dean of Harbison College and a pioneer of the civil rights movement. Boulware served as the chief attorney on the Briggs v. Elliott case that later merged into Brown v. Board of Education. In 1954, the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in the case ended school segregation in the United States.

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