Lowcountry tech school once taught slaves' daughters

Long before the Technical College of the Lowcountry began training computer programmers and green-building technicians, the daughters of newly freed slaves learned to read, write and manage a household on the college's campus on the banks of the Beaufort River.

Founded by Rachel Crane Mather of Boston in 1868, the Mather School served black families from Beaufort and across the United States for 100 years before it was given to the state for use as a technical school.

It closed in 1968 after serving as a boarding school for black girls and a coed junior college, but the more than 350 students who graduated from TCL on Friday night saw evidence of the school's legacy.

Four buildings from the Mather School still stand on TCL's Beaufort campus. Three -- Owen, Anderson and Coleman halls -- house offices, a testing center and student services, said spokeswomen Leigh Copeland.

Renovations soon will begin on the fourth, Moor Hall, built in 1939. About $190,000 in federal money has been set aside to restore the roof and part of the exterior, Copeland said.

"It's through Rachel Crane Mather, our founder, that we are filled in the spirit of making a difference in people," said Thomas Leitzel, TCL president. "She was a hero with a vision and commitment to making life better through education. ... The Mather School legacy continues to guide and inspire us as we remain dedicated to all Lowcountry citizens seeking better lives through education."

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