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Bethel School Video
Education leader leaves legacy in the Midlands
BLYTHEWOOD, S.C.(WACH) — In 1892, the Bethel Baptist Church was a focal point for black members to congregate in Blythewood. Years later, the church donated 30 acres of land to build a school for the youth. In 1936, Benedict College graduate, Annie E. Hanberry, came to Blythewood.
"(She was a) Strong disciplinarian, great with leadership, and just a wonderful person," said Theodore Manning, a student of Mrs. Hanberry.
Hanberry was forced out of the Columbia teaching community, because the fact that she was married, the city didn't allow it.
Hanberry took a teaching job in a two-bedroom school in Blythewood with one other teacher, but was determined to overcome obstacles and she taught her students the same.
"She taught us that we were entitled to what the united states constitution said. That we had life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (and) She made sure that she knew, that we knew, that it was part of us," Said Rody Egister, former student.
For years, Hanberry taught and fought for equality during segregation. She ensured her students received the same benefits as white schools.
"Whatever she did, that the other schools in the district had, she would make sure she would go to doctor wright and ask for the same equipment, or same things, so it would be equal," said Cecily Baxley Johnson, Hanberry's former secretary.
When Hanberry was named principal of Bethel elementary and high school, she became the first African-American woman to hold that position in South Carolina. She was also the only woman in the Palmetto Education Association, and felt it was her duty to give equal education and sports equipment to her students.
"She stood there in front of us and told us, you guys are going to have the very best equipment available because she cared so much about us," said James Woods, former student.
Hanberry's push for equality poured into discipline, as her standard of education was equaled in respect.
"She enforced it with a strap if things were not the way they were supposed to have been. I think I might have gotten it one time. That was enough for me back then, to get it there and then get it back home," said Manning.
Hanberry worked to ensure Bethel High School was one of the first to be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SWCS). In 1956, the Bethel School was renamed Annie E Hanberry High School.
After many school re-alignments, the high school eventually became Blythewood High School, and Bethel Elementary School was re-named Bethel-Hanberry Elementary School.
In 1972, Hanberry retired after 50 years of teaching, 35 of them in Richland District Two.
She later became the first recipient of the Alex English Humanitarian Award and was inducted into the Richland District Two Order of the Flame.
"Black History Month, or whatever you want to call it, every day is Black History Month, we make history every day," said Larry Griffin, former student.