The name Chicora is derived from the Native American Tribe that settled in the area. The Chicora Indians were by tradition a coastal tribe living in the vicinity of Pawley's Island, South Carolina. They grew corn, tobacco, and beans in their gardens and domesticated animals such as deer and chickens. Because of their locality, the Chicora Native Americans may have been some of the first Native Americans to experience the arrival of the Spanish explorers around the 1520s (2014).
As stated by Periscope (2014), the Chicora Native Americans were a harmonious tribe that bartered gifts with the Spanish. However, the Spanish explorers of the "New World" had few good intentions. Many of the Chicora Native Americans were taken from their land and forced into slavery. D'Allyon, one of the original Spanish explorers of America, traveled to Spain with "Francisco de Chicora," an affiliate of the Chicora tribe. There, Francisco learned Spanish and told the Spanish royalty about the magnificence of his ancestral lands.
There is a common history between the Chicora Indians and other tribes in South Carolina. These tribes often endured discrimination and had to attend separate schools in the 1900s. During their struggles, these tribes maintained a bond with their Native American heritage. Members of this tribe still live near the South Carolina coast (2014).
According to the City of North Charleston’s Historical and Architectural Survey Final Survey Report (1995), the Charleston County schools in today’s North Charleston are in Cooper River School District #4 and Saint Andrews District #10, two of sixteen school districts created in 1878. They represent numerous features in North Charleston’s history. Several of the area’s first schools are well-remembered; some have almost been forgotten.
From 1916-1929, nineteen schools for whites and twelve for blacks were constructed throughout Charleston County. Central and high schools were organized from Edisto Island to McClellanville to North Charleston. In residentially segregated areas, such as Liberty Hill or Chicora, there was only one. Black schools were impacted by consolidation less than white: in 1927 there were two more than twice as many black schools than white; in 1929 there were 74 black schools and 28 white schools in Charleston County. As late as 1931, more than half of South Carolina’s black pupils attended school in lodge halls, churches, and comparable buildings (1995).
Schools were part of the first plans for Olde North Charleston. North Charleston Graded School, designed by Fred J. Orr, was a framed building on East Montague Avenue. It opened in 1915 with twenty pupils. A larger graded school was erected in 1922 on Durant Avenue, the northeast part of North Charleston. On the other hand, the plans for Chicora Place and Cherokee Place did not include school lots. Children were expected to travel to scattered small schools until 1921 when the first Chicora Elementary School opened. It was replaced in 1935 by the present Chicora Graded School on the west side of Chicora Avenue (1995).
In 1928, there were eleven elementary schools, three white and eight black, in Cooper River School District 4. The elementary schools included North Charleston, Chicora, and Ladson for whites; Four Mile and Remount (south of North Charleston), Six Mile, Liberty, Saxon (near Midland Park), Ashley Phosphate, Ladson, and Lincolnville for blacks. During the 1930’s, public schools in North Charleston and suburban Charleston County operated at maximum capacity as Navy Yard employment increased, and as residents of outlying areas and the island relocated. Public school enrollment figures illustrate how the island relocated. Public school enrollment figures illustrate the population shifts. Outside the City of Charleston, total enrollment increased from 3469 to 3711 (7%) from 1937 to 1938. 57% of the total countywide increase was in four North Charleston schools: North Charleston High, North Charleston Graded, Chicora, and Midland Park. In 1938, Chicora’s enrollment was 516 (1995).
Most of the white schools in North Charleston were enlarged and improved between 1938-1939 by the Public Works Administration (PWA). A rear wing nearly doubled the size of North Charleston Graded School; ten classrooms and a cafeteria were added to North Charleston Graded School; eight classrooms and a cafeteria to Chicora Elementary School. At least in Charleston County, the result was that architects and contractors were drawn from the area, providing local employment (1995).
The increase of World War Two brought hundreds of young families into North Charleston. Schools encountered overcrowding and double sessions. The Federal Works Agency (FWA) built several schools, beginning in 1942 with Ben Tillman Graded School, constructed on a site donated by the Housing Authority to the Federal Government. School officials had already begun to apply to the FWA to assist in building a new high school at Chicora to alleviate North Charleston High School. Chicora High School finally opened in January 1944, with 617 students (1995).
According to Dobrasko (2005), Chicora Elementary was a white elementary school for children in North Charleston. The school equalization campaign permitted funding for additional classrooms, a library, and a cafeteria for the school. Although the first school building remains as an imposing three-story brick building, the additions to the school made in 1955 can be seen from the street behind the building. The new wing included rows of windows to allow natural light into the classroom. A small number of modifications have been made to Chicora. The noteworthy additions to the school made through the equalization program replicated trends in postwar school structural design, and Chicora is recommended as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
In December of 2011, Chicora was relocated to the Ben Tillman/Ronald E. McNair campus. In the fall of 2016, the students, parents, staff, and the community celebrated the opening of the new school building.
City of North Charleston Historical and Architectural Survey (1995). Retrieved from http://nationalregister.sc.gov/SurveyReports/HC10003.pdf
Dobrasko, Rebekah. (2005). Architectural Survey of Charleston County’s School Equalization Program 1951-1955. Retrieved from http://nationalregister.sc.gov/SurveyReports/EqualizationSchoolsCharleston.pdf
Periscope. (2014). Chicora Indians. Retrieved fromhttp://www.knowitall.org/periscope/display/showgalleryentry.cfm?entryID=93