DENMARK, SC – Voorhees College continually holds the distinct honor of being the last institution standing that was founded by one of Booker T. Washington’s students.
Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, who was at the age of 23, began her studies at Booker T. Washington’s famed Tuskegee Institute. She said time at Tuskegee gave her a mission in life: being “the same type of woman as Mr. Washington was of a man.” Knowing the importance of education, she moved to Denmark and started the first of several schools in the rural area. She survived threats, attacks, and arson.
Wright went back to Tuskegee to finish her degree before returning to South Carolina to try again. Undeterred and envisioning a better future for blacks through education, she founded Denmark Industrial School in 1897, modeling it after Tuskegee. New Jersey philanthropist Ralph Voorhees and his wife donated $5,000 to buy the land and build the first building, allowing the school to open in 1902 with Wright as principal. It was the only high school for blacks in the area.
In 1947, the school became Voorhees School and Junior College. And in 1962, it was accredited as four-year Voorhees College.
Today, Voorhees College survives as a small institution that takes pride in its rich history and is dedicated to catering to student’s academic, professional, social, and spiritual needs in order to assist them in fulfilling their higher education goals. Dating back to Wright’s era, there has been a debate between those who follow the philosophy of Dr. Booker T. Washington and advocated education aimed at teaching job skills and those who believe, as Dr. W.E.B. Dubois did, that a liberal education would help young adults develop as leaders. The Voorhees curriculum today is a mix of the two views.
The institution offers each student a comprehensive general education experience coupled with a values-centered liberal arts environment that supports opportunities designed to help prepare students to function in a diverse and increasingly technology society.