Faith Cabin Library

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Faith Cabin Library, Pendleton, South Carolina

Faith Cabin Libraries were a system of libraries created in South Carolina and Georgia providing library services to Black Americans who were not allowed to use public libraries because of segregation laws.[1]


This library system was created in the 1930s and 1940s by Willie Lee Buffington, a White mill worker, and his childhood friend, a Black teacher Euriah Simpkins.[2][3] Simpkins had invited Buffington to the opening of a Saluda County school for Black students. Buffington, surprised and upset by the lack of books in the school, began a letter-writing campaign to area churches soliciting book donations for his library project.[3] However, there were too many books for the school itself, so Buffington and Simpkins decided to build a library themselves.[3]

The first library--the Lizze Koon unit after Buffington's mother--a small free-standing log cabin building, opened in 1932 in Saluda County.[2][3] It was 18 feet by 22 feet with a rock chimney.[4] The building's furniture was barrels for chairs and kerosene lamps for illumination.[4] At the library's opening, a community member said "we didn't have money, all we had was faith" which lent a name to both the building and the movement as Faith Cabin Libraries.[5]


Simpkins' and Buffington's project spread throughout South Carolina and Georgia, through print publications such as Southern Workman and, later, publications such as Reader's Digest, the Saturday Evening Post and Library Journal.[5] Buffington was active in publicity for the project, appearing on the Hobby Lobby radio program; his appearance helped raise enough money for a library in Lexington, South Carolina.[5] Ted Malone profiled the movement in a 1948 radio broadcast.[5] Buffington's life and the origin story of the movement was dramatized in 1951 in the Cavalcade of America radio series .[5]

Buffington, who was on the faculty of Paine College, a Methodist college in Augusta, Georgia, created a slide collection with a script that could be used by Woman's Society of Christian Service of the Methodist Church to promote the movement.[5] Buffington's salary for the project was being paid by divisions of the Methodist church by the early 1950s.[5]

South Carolina projects[edit]

The Works Progress Administration provided library services throughout the state of South Carolina between 1936 and 1943, however it was disproportionately providing services to White people.[5] During the time the WPA provided library services to South Carolina, there were more Faith Cabin Libraries serving the Black population than WPA libraries.[5] The State Library Board actively denied the existence and continued operation of Faith Cabin libraries in the early 1950s.[5]

Georgia projects[edit]

Buffington worked with Robert Cousins who was the director of Negro Education in Georgia, to identify communities who wanted Faith Cabin libraries.[5] Assistance in curating and organizing book collections in libraries was provided by the Atlanta University Library School.[5] Seventy-five Faith Cabin libraries were established in Georgia between 1944 and 1960, primarily in school buildings.[5]

In total, there were twenty-nine Faith Cabin Libraries built in South Carolina and over seventy in Georgia.[6] Each community was responsible for housing the book collection and operating their own library.[5]


In the 1950s and 1960s school consolidations eliminated many of the smaller schools with Faith Cabin collections, and public libraries were integrated by the mid-1960s.[5] The library system remained active until the mid-1970s.[4] The Faith Cabin Library at Paine College remained open and available until Buffington retired in 1975.[5] There are three remaining free-standing Faith Cabin Library buildings, one in Pendleton, South Carolina, one in Saluda County, South Carolina and one in Seneca, South Carolina.[7][8] The building in Seneca is being repurposed as a Black history museum.[9]


  1. ^ "Faith Cabin Library". Pendleton Foundation for Black History and Culture. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form" (PDF). South Carolina Department of Archives and History. National Park Service. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d "Faith Cabin Library". Seneca, South Carolina. March 31, 2017. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Meaney, Amy (June 30, 2016). "Willie Lee Buffington and the Faith Cabin Libraries". Moving Image Research Collections (MIRC). Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Lee, Dan (Winter 1991). "Faith Cabin Libraries: A Study of an Alternative Library Service in the Segregated South, 1932-1960". Libraries & Culture. 26 (1): 169–182. JSTOR 25542329.
  6. ^ "South Carolina--Library Services to Blacks". Information and Communications - College of Information and Communications | University of South Carolina. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  7. ^ "Pendleton Organizations". Archived from the original on November 13, 2013. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  8. ^ "Faith Cabin Library at Saluda". The Green Book of South Carolina. April 20, 2017. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  9. ^ "Seneca's Faith Cabin Library to serve as a testament – 101.7 WGOG". 101.7 WGOG – The Golden Corner's Radio Station. February 14, 2020. Retrieved February 18, 2020.