We should not change the school calendar because it is a threat to family life, summer vacation is as valuable as school, and it has little to no positive influence on test scores.
The approximately 3,000 photographs, the earliest of which date from the 1860s and the latest from 1953, are an important part of the collection. Photographs are fewest during the years 1862-1890. Most of them date from 1905 to 1944, the tenure of Cooley and House as teachers and principals. They are found chiefly in 26 photograph albums, at least nine of which seem to have been assembled by the principals for display. Photographs (and some drawings) document school activities, Island scenes and Islanders, classes and teachers, baptisms, agricultural activities, parades, fairs, and special events at the Penn School.
Most of the correspondence for the 1930s reflects the economic distress of the Great Depression, which hurt Penn School most through the reduced financial resources of its leading supporters. In 1931, Penn was forced to abandon its year-round schedule. In October 1931, there is a poignant series of notes, apparently one from each member of the Penn School staff, accepting a voluntary five percent reduction in salary, and in October 1933, there is a salary list with reductions of up to 25 percent. Later some industrial courses were discontinued, and in 1937 there is an outline of the revised curriculum.
In spite of the setbacks and problems, Cooley and House remained optimistic. Cooley wrote in December 1937 that "the influence of Penn School seems to go farther and farther steadily, and ... to be making a deep dent on attitudes toward Negro education." There is continued correspondence from visitors including W. D. Weatherford in 1931 and 1934; Charles T. Loram in 1932; Albert Bushnell Hart, who had visited Penn 30 years earlier in 1933; Will Alexander in 1934; Edgar T. Thompson in 1936; and Gunnar Myrdal in 1939.
i am a 73 year old widow. I can’t live on Social Security. I took care of my Mother and my husband who were both on dialysis till they passed, which took all our savings, then my son came to me for help to go through Cancer for the second time, he passed this last January, then my home was foreclosed an now I am living in my Van. No one wants to hire a woman of my age, even with a BA degree. I want to help others and found a way. I took the first 20 hours at a cost of $300. Of clinical Hypnotherapy, but to go to classes and complete it, will take $7,700 more which I don’t have. This is an approved school by the department of Education, with job placement. This is something I can do to help so many people and I know I can be good at it. This will also help me support myself. I don’t know which scholarships or Grants to apply for, as I was on the deans list in college every semester and was offered a scholastic scholarship to transfer colleges back to Florida my home state. I know I will do well, but I just need some financial help to achieve my goals. Thanks for reading.
The work of publicizing the school also continued. Of particular interest is correspondence in 1934 about the performance of the Penn School Quartet at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., arranged by Elizabeth Lindsay, wife of the British ambassador and a native of Saint Helena. There are also letters from writers and students interested in the school; an essay by Cooley in 1937 on "Vassar Influence on the Sea Islands of South Carolina"; and letters from John A. Silver, a new trustee, who in June 1938 suggested making a motion picture about Penn School as a fund-raising project.
In 1918, Gregorio Torres Quintero, a Mexican specialist in rural education who visited Saint Helena, wrote about his visit to Cooley. He was the first of many visitors to Penn School in the 1920s to record their impressions of the school. Many were missionaries about to report to stations in Africa and elsewhere who hoped to apply the principles and practices of Penn School in other countries. Of particular interest are the letters in 1925 from Emory Ross, African missionary and friend of Albert Schweitzer; a discussion in May 1926 by Mabel Carney of the influence of Penn School in Africa; letters in 1926 and 1928 from Charles T. Loram, a professor of education who taught in South Africa and later at Yale; material about the 1928 visit of Winold Reiss, a German-born artist who executed unusual portraits of the Island people; and a form letter to contributors, June 1930, in which Cooley spoke of teaching at Penn School. See also volume 65B, guest register 1905-1962, and reports by African visitors among the printed materials.
Materials document the influence of Penn School far beyond the Sea Islands. There is a substantial body of correspondence with philanthropic and educational organizations, magazine editors, and others interested in the work of Penn School as a model for African American education. Included also are letters from local, state, and federal officials with whom Cooley and House worked, especially on problems of agriculture, health, sanitation, and education.
In spite of his pacifist views, Kester continued Penn School's participation in the war, but he made a number of other changes that are reflected in his first report to the trustees on 1 January 1944 and in other papers. After a land survey done by Clemson College, he reorganized the farm program and began a project to repair the school buildings, and he recruited new teachers in an effort to raise the school standards. In 1945, he secured seats on the board of trustees for Benjamin Mays and Joshua Blanton, two African American college presidents, and hired Alice Frank Merriam to run a publicity and fund-raising office in the North.
The Penn School papers consist chiefly of office files from the African American school on Saint Helena Island, S.C. Correspondence is primarily of Rossa B. Cooley, Grace B. House, and later Howard Kester. There is also correspondence of trustees, treasurers, and publicity workers located elsewhere. Materials relate to the day-to-day administration of the school and its program. Included are letters dealing with the purchase of supplies and equipment; planning and construction of new buildings, especially Cope Industrial Building in 1912 and Frissell Memorial Community Building in 1925; hiring and assignment of personnel; development of the school curriculum and programs; and the festivals, clubs and contests sponsored by the school that involved the entire community. There are also financial statements and other reports; scattered lists of faculty, students, and contributors to the school; correspondence about fund-raising and promotional campaigns; and articles and speeches about the school by Cooley, House, and others.
On 25 January 1950, Courtney Siceloff was hired as director of Penn Community Services. With the change in name came also a new program emphasis, a new perspective toward the South, and a new leadership that is reflected in the slight, scattered papers after 1948 in this series. Northern domination of the board ended in 1957, with the election of Marion A. Wright of Beaufort, S.C., as chair and James McBride Dabbs, his successor in 1963. The prime concern of Penn Community Services had become community service, not just for the Sea Islands but for the entire southern region. But the past was not forgotten, and the papers record the work of Willie Lee Rose and Edith M. Dabbs in documenting the history of Penn School and Saint Helena Island.