Many know Laing as one of the top STEM middle schools in the country, but Laing has a long rich history that dates back to right after the Civil War. It’s the first accredited school to educate freed slaves in South Carolina. Graduates of Laing continue to work to honor the history and nurture a living legacy.
Laing has a long rich history. Pearl Ascue is president of the Laing School Association and a member of Laing High School’s last graduating class. She says, “Over 100 years creating the Root of the STEM. We have so many branches now from this root, the root of Laing High School. When you’re talking about the history of education in South Carolina, especially here East of the Cooper here in Mount Pleasant, this story needs to be told.”
In the aftermath of the Civil War, the school was founded in 1866 by Cornelia Hancock, a Quaker and a Union army nurse. She started the school in a church in Mount Pleasant’s old village for freed slaves. Ascue says, “Laing was not always called Laing school. It was initially called The School for Negroes. Then later on, during the years the school was named for Henry M. Laing. It’s such a rich history.”
From 1866 to 1970, the segregated Laing had ten principals. Laing evolved over the years… and eventually became a high school on Highway 17 in the Six Mile community in 1953. The high school was closed in 1970, after the desegregation of Charleston county schools.
After years of hard work, recently the association erected and unveiled a historical marker at the former school’s site. A Home Depot now sits on the land. The arch of the old school was preserved, and it is now at the store’s entrance.
Dorothy E. Fludd is the Laing School Association’s historian. She was instrumental in the effort to preserve Laing’s history. With laughter, she says, “I’m a member of the class of 1955, the greatest class that ever existed.” Fludd says, “Because of the significance of its history, where it started over 150 years ago, and it was started to educate the recently freed slaves, and gave them a chance to become a significant and operating part of the community.” Fludd says the marker symbolizes respect. “It means that we as a people would be respected, that we have contributed to this country.”
Plans are also in the works for a memorial court, which will honor students who integrated Moultrie High School in 1965. Wando high school students developed the conceptual plan.
The court will surround this memorial tree. Ascue says, “The memorial tree represents Brown versus Board of Education 50th anniversary. It was planted at the original high school. Laing High School, Laing Middle School site, but when Home Depot purchased the property, it was moved from that location at the old Laing and placed here in the easement area.”
There is also a plaque in front of the Home Depot store honoring veterans. Laing became Charleston county’s first school to accept veterans completing their high school education.
Ascue says, “Laing school was the first school that took veterans in 1955 after they came back from war to come back to school to complete their education.”
When asked what is your hope when people come to this area and see the historical marker and the memorial court, Fludd says, “I hope they think of the legacy that was left, that the people who contributed to this area, they would be known, their names would be recognized, that they have done something in their lives, and they need to pass it on to the younger people who are coming along.
LSA is also creating a Laing School Endowment Fund for student scholarships. Ascue says, “It means that it’s the middle of a journey, it’s not the end. We could pass the torch on to the middle schoolers, they can take it on to an everlasting journey. It’s not the end. History is the past. Laing is a living legacy.”