The three-day event known as Heritage Days has celebrated the culture and heritage of Penn Center on St. Helena Island in South Carolina’s Lowcountry since 1981. The celebration was a successor to “Harvest Days,” held yearly from the early 1900s until 1948, when Penn School closed. This annual event began because so many individuals and institutions of the Sea Islands have been touched by the activities of Penn School and later Penn Center, and because this honored institution has been instrumental in preserving and strengthening the Sea Island culture, the idea of a Penn Center Heritage Days Celebration was born in August of 1981. Since its inception, Penn Center’s Heritage Days Celebration has grown from a single day of events to three days of song, food, performers, seminars, as well as other events.



Heritage Days 2023 Schedule

Thursday, November 9th – Celebration begins with the Gullah Roots Village (10:00 am – 2:00 pm).

  • The formal opening of the festival will take place from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
  • A powerful and moving Youth Theatrical Performance will take place from 6:00pm to 7:00 pm.  (Tickets: Adults $12.00/Students $8.00).
  • A Lowcountry Supper will unfold at Penn Center’s Emory Campbell Dining Hall from 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm ($20.00 includes meal, desert, and a drink).
  • An Old Fashion Prayer Service (7:30 pm – 8:30 pm)
  • A Heritage Featured Artist Reception titled “Sam Doyle Coming Home” (lite refreshments will be served).  Featured speakers are: Artist Mary Mack, Dr. Saundra “Renee” Smith and Brenda Singleton. 6:30 pm-8:00 pm, York W. Bailey Museum, 16 Penn Center Circle-West, St. Helena Island.

Friday, November 10th

  • Family and Friends Day: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
  • Arts, Authors’ Row: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm/ Food Vendors 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
  • Heritage Symposium: Educator’s Professional Development (8:30 am/registration-3:00 pm/concurrent sessions) $40.00-qualifies for continuing education credits.
  • “Tied to the Land “2:00 pm – 4:30 pm.  (Darrah Hall/ Penn Center’s campus/Free and Open to the Public).
  • Old School Fish Fry, Oyster Roast & Crab Crack (“Soul Music Night”) 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm.

Saturday, November 11th

  • Heritage Days’ Parade: 9:00 am
  • Heritage Days’ Center Stage Program: 12:00 pm – 45:00 pm
  • Soul Slide Dance Party: Frissell Community House 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm  ($10.00/ATD 15.00)
  • Crafts and Food Vendors: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
  • Activities at MLK Park featuring HBCU representatives from South Carolina, Georgia and beyond. 11:00 am – 5:00 pm.
  • Reconstruction Park: 11:00 am 5:00 pm
  • Young Professionals Mixer/ Emory Campbell Dining Hall (east side of the campus) 8:00 pm – 12:00 AM.

Designated in 1974 as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior, Penn Center has been a community of history and achievement since 1862. Located on St. Helena Island, Penn Center was known as Penn School for its first 86 years. It was the first school for enslaved people in the South. In 1953, it became Penn Community Services, Inc. Penn Center’s current mission is to promote and preserve Penn’s true history and culture through its commitment to education, community development and social justice.

For more information call 843-838-2474 or visit