Abby Munro: Educator for destitute children in South Carolina, 1870-1890s

By Sarah Moore

Abby Munro was a teacher from Rhode Island who came to Mount Pleasant, South Carolina to help Cornelia Hancock in teaching Black freed men and women at the Laing School. At the Laing School, students received an education and were given an opportunity to learn a trade. (Laing Middle School of Science and Technology; Fludd; Town of Mount Pleasant Historical Commission). In the 1870s, Munro took over for duties from Hancock and became the principal of the school. She expanded on the original work of Hancock, when in 1882 she opened a Children’s Home for Destitute Children, one of the first orphanages for African Americans in South Carolina (Fludd; Mount Pleasant Historical Commission). Though older than the Jenkins’ Orphanage, the Destitute Children’s Home was smaller and served  the local population of Mount Pleasant. (Fordham, 2009).

This collection consists of a range of items related to Abby Munro’s work at the Home of Destitute Children and the Laing School in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, like legal documents signed by parents giving custody of children to Abby Munro. Additionally, documents in the collection frequently outline that a child will be cared for while receiving an education. A second medium found in this collection is photographs, most of which are of the Laing School. These photographs allow for a glimpse into education at the Laing Normal and Industrial School. One photograph shows students learning to cobble shoes. Another photograph shows young girls learning to sew.

Arthur Macbeth, an African American photographer based in Charleston, South Carolina, took many of these photographs of the Laing School. After studying with German, French, and American photographers, Macbeth opened his own studio in Charleston in 1886 (Bowser, 1999). A few of Macbeth photographs were used some of the in Laing School publications that reported on progress of the school and home. Both the Laing school and Children’s Home relied heavily on donations and these publications used to show how the donations were being used, plus how the donations were making a difference.

Check our our digital collection, Abby D. Munro papers, 1837-1913. The physical collection is held at South Caroliniana Library.

Citations

  • Bowser, P. “Pioneers of Black Documentary Film.” (1999). Struggles for Representation: African American Documentation Film and Video. (page 4)
  • Fludd D. “Laing School History” Accessed October 17, 2018.
  • Fordham, D. L. Voices of Black South Carolina: Legend and Legacy.(2009).
  • Laing Middle School of Science and Technology: For a New Generation of Learners. “School History.” Accessed October 16, 2018.
  • Town of Mount Pleasant Historical Commission. “Mount Pleasant Home for Destitute Children.” Mount Pleasant Historical. Accessed October 15 2018.