About Us

The Center for African American History, Art and Culture is housed in the historic Immanuel Institute, located on the corner of York Street and Richland Avenue. Reverend W.R. Coles, an African American Presbyterian missionary, moved to Aiken in 1881 and established a church and school for freed enslaved people. The Institute began as a small six room house on Newberry Street. As the student population grew, he built the Immanuel Institute in 1889. Over the years, the building has housed a variety of education and cultural schools. Among them were Coles Academy, Coles Normal and Industrial School, Immanuel Institute, Jackson School, Andrew Roberts Institute, and St. Gerard Catholic School. The restorative process began at the Immanuel Institute in 2004.  A group of community leaders recognized the value of preserving this historic landmark and the potential to use it to capture the rich history of Aiken’s African American Community. The Immanuel Institute is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With the assistance of corporate, city, county, and individual support and monetary donations, renovations were completed in 2021.  CAAHAC is delighted to host lecture series, art shows, traveling exhibits, special events, concert series and more in the community.

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Our Mission and Vision

The mission of the Center for African American History, Art and Culture is to preserve the
Immanuel Institute building and to be an educational resource with interactive programs of sight and sound that educate and inspire, that celebrate both Aiken’s diversity and its sense of community and that demonstrate the many contributions of African Americans in Aiken County, in South Carolina and in our nation.

The Center for African American History, Art, and Culture gratefully acknowledges funding through the Aiken Together Campaign.