Dedicated August 1, 2018
Partners: GLEAMNS Human Resources Commission
The Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Historical Preservation Site, formerly Dr. Mays' birth home, was designated a Literary Landmark on Wednesday, August 1, 2018. The site, previously listed as one of South Carolina’s Eleven Most Endangered Properties, was originally located in a pasture in SE Greenwood County in the community of Epworth. In 2004, the SC Palmetto Conservation Foundation purchased the home from the owners, repaired it, and moved it to its current site. In 2011, GLEAMNS (serving Greenwood, Laurens, Edgefield, Abbeville, McCormick, Newberry and Saluda counties) Human Resources established the Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Historical Preservation Site to honor and display the life of Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays.
Coming from humble beginnings, Dr. Mays is remembered as an influential activist, intellectual, minister, and leader during the civil rights movement. He became president of Morehouse College in 1940, where Dr. Martin Luther King graduated in 1948. King cited Mays as a mentor and father-figure. Mays published nearly 2000 articles and nine books throughout his career.
The event took place at the site, beginning at 10:00 a.m. and lasting approximately 90 minutes. Dr. Randal Maurice Jelks, Professor of American and African American Studies at the University of Kansas, and author of “Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement: A Biography” delivered the keynote address, speaking about the significance of Dr. Mays as a literary presence in black academia in the early 20th Century.
Tom Mack (Board Chair of the South Carolina Academy of Authors), Marlena White (President of the Board for Friends of South Carolina Libraries), and Leesa Aiken (Agency Director of the South Carolina State Library) also spoke at the dedication. Senator Floyd Nicholson and Representative J. Anne Parks were in attendance as well. Gospel songs were performed throughout, and an honorary plaque was dedicated during the ceremony.