DENMARK, S.C. (courtesy voorhees.edu) — Voorhees College founder Elizabeth Evelyn Wright was recently inducted posthumously into the South Carolina Hall of Fame Class of 2020 with Dr. Leo Twiggs, first African-American to receive a doctorate in art education from the University of Georgia, and Darius Rucker, multi-platinum, Grammy-award-winning country singer and frontman for the band “Hootie and the Blowfish.”
Wright was approved for induction into the SC Hall of Fame for her consistent determination and efforts in establishing Voorhees College. She was persistent and faced many challenges such as multiple arson attacks to initial buildings, but Wright did not allow anything to stop her vision.
In 1897 her vision turned into a reality after founding the Denmark Industrial School and then after meeting with Ralph Voorhees and purchasing land she relocated and renamed the institution Voorhees College.
Dr. W. Franklin Evans, the ninth president and CEO of Voorhees College, accepted Wright’s plaque along with two of Wright’s descendants Jewel Barrett and her daughter Jewel Delegall.
“Lizzie was set on a mission given by God to establish an institution of learning for African-Americans. After enrolling in Tuskegee in 1888, she received her calling to provide educational opportunities for her people,” Evans said. “She went to Hampton County, SC to begin and after arson attacks, she settled in Denmark.”
He added, “It is because of her dream and vision, she became the first African-American woman to establish an institution of learning that is still in existence today.”
Richard Reid, Voorhees archivist, and historian said this was an emotional moment and honor he will never forget. “We worked hard to nominate Lizzie and go through the process of getting her accepted. Over the years, I have researched many aspects of her education and efforts to establish Voorhees. This accomplishment will go down in history and add to the institution’s repertoire.”
Delegall and Barrett both said education has been in the family for many years and they owe it all to Wright’s accomplishments with establishing a school.
“I am very proud to witness the induction of Aunt Lizzie as our family calls her. My mother used to speak about her and how important education was and what it meant for our future,” Barrett said. “I spent more than 40 years teaching and this moment was beautiful. The Voorhees choir took me away with their singing and including Lizzie’s story into some of the lyrics.”
Delegall said she has been an entertainer, educator, and director but could not figure out why she became a dance teacher. “Looking back at my history I realize I come from a long lineage of educators and I was destined because of my aunt to teach,” Delegall said. “Today, was excellent and signifies my family’s legacy and how important education still is. I cannot wait to come and visit the institution.”
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