Dorchester Academy, one of the first schools for African-Americans in Georgia and a National Historic Landmark, announced that it received a $5,000 gift from Kinder Morgan Inc. last week.
“Our very identity is based on preservation, and buildings tell the stories of any community,” said Allen Fore, the vice president of public affairs for Kinder Morgan. “As a National Landmark and African-American history museum and community center, Dorchester is a critical component of our nation’s history. We’re pleased to make a contribution toward preserving such an important part of history.”
This is the latest in a string of gifts Kinder Morgan has made throughout coastal Georgia and the Augusta area, along the route of its proposed Palmetto Pipeline. That pipeline would carry petroleum 360 miles from Belton, South Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida, including 18 miles in Liberty County and 2 miles in Long County.
The energy company has donated $30,000 to the athletic program at McIntosh County Academy and $90,000 to athletics at South Effingham High School, among other gifts, since Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry denied Kinder Morgan’s request for a certificate of public convenience and necessity. Without that certificate, the company is not able to invoke eminent domain powers to secure the right-of-way to install the pipeline on property whose owners refuse to provide access.
Kinder Morgan filed a lawsuit in June in Fulton County Superior Court seeking to overturn McMurry’s decision.
Founded in 1871 by the American Missionary Association as a school for freed slaves, Dorchester started in a one-room schoolhouse with a student body ranging in age from 8 to 80. When the academy ceased operating as a school in 1940, the innovative spirit of the institution continued with the opening of a community center housed in the old boys’ dormitory.
During the 1940s, the school was the site of African-American voter registrations. At the height of the civil rights movement, Dorchester Academy hosted Citizen Education Workshops sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to train grassroots leaders from all over the South and send these leaders home to instruct their neighbors about their legal rights and responsibilities. Later, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Ralph Abernathy and Dr. Joseph Lowery spent time at the academy preparing for the Birmingham, Alabama, march, and King also wrote and practiced portions of his “I Have a Dream” speech at the academy.
“Dorchester Academy is forever linked to the cultural and political forces that shaped our nation’s history,” said state Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway. “We are grateful to have a corporate sponsor committed to our community.”
Riceboro Mayor Bill Austin, who is also the president of the Dorchester Improvement Association, added his personal note of thanks to Kinder Morgan.
The Kinder Morgan gift will go toward general improvements, as well as the renovation of the Greek Revival-style boys’ dormitory, one of the only original Dorchester Academy buildings that remains.