Avery Research Center

The Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture is located on the site of the former Avery Normal Institute.  It was a hub for Charleston’s African-American community from 1865–1954 that trained its students for professional careers and leadership roles.  In 1985, the alumni of the Avery Normal Institute, spearheaded by the Honorable Lucille Whipper, formed the Avery Institute of Afro-American History and Culture.  It joined with the College of Charleston to establish the Avery Research Center to preserve the legacy of the Avery Normal Institute and educate the community on the history and culture of African Americans in Charleston, the South Carolina Lowcountry, and South Carolina at large.  The Avery Research Center currently holds nearly 4000 primary- and secondary-source materials that document the history, traditions, legacies, and influence of African Americans and their place in the American narrative.

Over 3000 patrons visit the Avery Research Center annually, ranging from scholars and lecturers, to school groups and universities, to families and community members from all over the world.  The Avery Research Center provides tours, hosts workshops, presents lectures, and spotlights local and national talents in various forms of creative expression.  Additionally, partnerships with the Charleston Public Schools, Berkeley Public Schools, the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs’ MOJA Arts Festival: A Celebration of African-American and Caribbean Arts, and other community groups extend the Avery Research Center’s reach into local communities.

Patricia Williams Lessane, PhD

Executive Director


(843) 953.7234

  Dr. Williams Lessane is a cultural anthropologist whose focus areas include Pan African religious identity, Black feminist theory, and representations of Black life in popular culture. She earned a BA in English from Fisk University, a MALS from Dartmouth College, and a PhD in Anthropology from University of Illinois at Chicago. Before joining The College of Charleston, she was a faculty member at Roosevelt University, and a consultant for The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.


Daron-Lee Calhoun II

Facilities, Outreach, and Public Programming Coordinator

Race and Social Justice Initiative Coordinator




Savannah Frierson
Office Manager



Aaisha Haykal
Manager of Archival Services


Georgette Mayo
Processing Archivist
Ms. Mayo received her BA in African American Studies (Phi Beta Kappa) and master’s degrees in Library Science and Public History, with a concentration in Archival Management from the University of South Carolina. Her research interest is African American Women’s history.