Visit the Beach Institute African-American Cultural Center in Savannah Georgia - Established in 1865 as the city's first school built specifically for African Americans. Today, the Beach Institute is a center for a rich
variety of African American cultural programs.
The Beach Institute also houses a collection of 237 pieces of wood sculptures by nationally known folk artist, Ulysses Davis. It also houses the offices of the King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation Inc. and frequent exhibits.
A Thumbnail History of the Beach Institute
Built in 1867 by the Freedmen’s Bureau and primarily funded by the American Missionary Association, named in honor of New Yorker Alfred S. Beach, Editor of Scientific American, who donated funds to purchase the site.
Initially 600 students enrolled. The school had 9 female teachers and a male principal. Most of these teachers were white. Tuition was $1 per month in 1873.
In 1874, The Beach Institute was turned over to the Savannah Board of Education and became a free public school for black children.
In 1878, the school was damaged by fire, rendering it temporarily unusable. The American Missionary Association took this opportunity to resume control of the building and the educational program as they were intent on securing a higher grade of instruction than the Board of Education in Savannah thought it prudent to furnish.
In 1917 the Savannah Boys Club rented one small room in the basement of The Beach Institute as its weekly meeting place. The activities and fame of this club extended and expanded until it occupied the entire basement of the building and utilized every week day evening with its educational endeavors on behalf of under-privileged negro boys.
The Beach Institute closed in 1919. Enrollment had significantly declined due to the opening of Savannah’s first black public high school on Cuyler Street, as well as the prevailing popularity of the Georgia State Industrial College at Thunderbolt, which opened in 1891.