ST. HELENA ISLAND, S.C. (AP) -- A historic African American cultural institution that once educated freed slaves on the South Carolina coast and later served as a retreat center for civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

The Penn Center on Saint Helena Island started in 1862 as one of the nation's first schools for emancipated blacks and, at the turn of the 20th Century, became an agricultural and industrial school.

Executive Director Walter Mack says the center is working now to protect the Gullah culture on the South Carolina sea islands and provide sustainable development for its residents.

As part of the anniversary celebration, the Penn Center is working on plans for a reunion of leaders of the nation's civil rights movement next year

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