Working Together at the Dorchester Cooperative Center 1930s -1940s

The Industrial Arts Department at Dorchester Academy taught students practical skills they could use in everyday life. The boys took classes in farming, woodworking, iron-working, and architecture. The girls were instructed in cooking, sewing, dressmaking and related industries. Most importantly, the students were taught teamwork and the basics of cooperative buying. The Dorchester Cooperative Center’s efforts to encourage cooperative buying succeeded because the former students of Dorchester Academy understood and encouraged the community action.

Established in 1937, the Dorchester Cooperative Center opened several cooperative groups including a cooperative store, consumer’s cooperative, chicken cooperative, and producer’s cooperative. In March 1939, the Dorchester Federal Credit Union (DFCU) opened. All who lived within nine miles of Dorchester Academy were eligible to join. The DFCU’s goals were to “stimulate systematic saving,” help those unable to secure needed funds, and to bring the community together in a way that encouraged group action. The credit union’s success “made it easier for Negroes to get credit from the local bank.” Thanks to the DFCU, two farming cooperative groups within the DCC were able to organize and secure loans to purchase farming tractors.

In the late 1940’s, members of the Dorchester Cooperative Center wanted to provide local healthcare for themselves and other area residents. Thanks to their efforts the remodeled boys’ dormitory became the home of the clinic run by the Liberty County Hospital Authority for Colored People.