African-American History

Ever since Sumter was carved from the South Carolina Backcountry in 1800, African-Americans have represented approximately one-half the total population. From this diversity has arisen a rich shared history, with our African-American citizens leading the way for the nation with singular accomplishments in government, military, education, sports, and more.

Take a trip down Sumter County’s “less traveled roads” as we celebrate almost 250 years of change and celebration with a guide to the local people and places that helped shape America.

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune

Dr. Mary McLeod BethuneMary McLeod Bethune’s entire long life was marked by her complete commitment to education. Born in 1875, she became founder of Bethune-Cookman College, special adviser to four US Presidents including Franklin D. Roosevelt, president of the National Association of Colored Women, founder of the National Council of Negro Women, consultant for the chartering of the United Nations--her accomplishments would be remarkable for anyone, but are astounding when viewed against the background of her humble circumstances and the racial climate of the times. Mrs. Bethune was honored with a US Postage Stamp in 1985 and was the first African-American named to the SC Hall of Fame. In 1974, a memorial to her was unveiled at Lincoln Park in Washington, DC.


  • Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Nature Trail -  a wonderful nature trail that can be used for an afternoon stroll or bike ride. 3.3 miles
  • Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial Park - Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Road, Lee County, US 76 to Mayesville. Turn left on Hwy. 154; drive approx. 2 miles to Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Rd. and follow signs.
  • Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Learning Center & Art Gallery - 35 N Main St E, Mayesville, SC
  • Tomb of Miss Emma J. Wilson - Site of the former Mayesville Institute, later Mayesville Elementary School Institute Street, Mayesville SC

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Goodwill Presbyterian Church

The first African-American Presbyterian church in Sumter County, Goodwill was organized in 1867 by 100 black members of Salem Black River Presbyterian Church. The first church on this site was erected in 1868. The Manse was built in 1890. Although the sanctuary was severely damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, it has since been restored and Goodwill Presbyterian remains an active part of the rural Sumter County community. The Goodwill Parochial (Day) School is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. View from outside; open on Sundays.

(803) 495-3599. Highway 527, Mayesville SC. From US 76, turn right. 

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Emmanuel United Methodist Church

Emmanuel United Methodist Church was organized in 1866 as a “bush arbor” church, in a shed built with poles and covered with moss, on land purchased by the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. First pastored by the Reverend B. Frank Whittemore, the church had seen 15 members join the ordained ministry by 1890. The present sanctuary, completed in 1901, is the oldest church building of any denomination in the city of Sumter. View from outside; open on Sundays. (803) 773-6197. 421 South Main Street, Sumter.


First Missionary Baptist Church & Morris College