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Humane and Friendly Society records

Identifier: AMN 1114

Collection Overview

The collection contains correspondence, 1965-1966 meeting minutes, membership applications, plot applications, membership rolls, due collections, interment information, occupied plot notices, and the bylaws of the Humane and Friendly Society. Administrative materials include the bylaws of the society and correspondence to members about bylaw and constitutional changes. Collection and interment records date from 1934 to 1965 and contain information about the amount of dues, the length of membership to the society, notations about the interments of members and family of members. Plot records includes the blank forms used by members to apply for plots in the Humane and Friendly Society and completed forms that note the plot number, the society members' name, and who has been buried on the plot.


  • Creation: 1934-1966, 1981


Access Restrictions

No restrictions.

Copyright Notice

The nature of the Avery Research Center's archival holdings means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The Avery Research Center claims only physical ownership of most archival materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Historical Note

The Humane and Friendly Society was established by free Blacks in Charleston, South Carolina in 1802 to support sick individuals and to aid their families; to provide a place for burial, and to help widows. In addition, they sometimes arranged for apprenticeships for African American males and paid for the education of orphaned children. The society also promoted a sense of community, yet some found the society and others like it to be elitist since one had to pay dues to be a member. The organization was one of nine burial and fraternal societies such as Brown Fellowship Society (1790); and preceded the Friendly Union Society (1913); Brotherly Association (1852); Monrovia Society (1856); Unity and Friendship Society (1871); Reserve Fellowship (1874); Lewis Christian Society; and Racker Hill Cemetery (aka Bright Light) (1890s). Other names for these organizations include bury leagues, mutual benefit societies, fraternal orders, and burial associations.

The Society established a cemetery for their members in 1843 at the Magnolia Complex (aka Magnolia Cemetery) in Charleston, South Carolina. Burial societies like the Humane and Friendly Society were necessary because societal laws prohibited the burial of African Americans in the same cemetery as Whites. Thus, Whites in Charleston supported the creation of these societies to maintain societal norms, nevertheless, the societies evolved to serve the needs of the African American community.

According to the 1913 Rules of the Humane and Friendly Society, the administrative officers of the organization included a President, a Vice-President, a Treasurer, and a Secretary.

After emancipation in 1865, membership in burial societies like the Humane and Friendly Society decreased because African American churches took on the responsibilities once held by the societies. In 1966, members of the Society held a meeting to discuss making changes to the bylaws, increasing membership dues, and the upkeep of the Humane and Friendly Society cemetery.

As of 2010, John Dash serves as president of the Society.

SOURCES: Avery Research Center vertical file folders: Burial Practices and Cemeteries


0.25 linear feet (1 archival box)

Language of Materials



The Humane and Friendly Society was a benevolent society of free African American men in Charleston, South Carolina. The Society served as a way to provide for widows, orphaned children, a burial place for its members, and it also arranged apprenticeships and educational opportunities for African American men.

The collection consists of administrative materials of the Humane and Friendly Society including meeting minutes, correspondence, and membership lists. Topics of discussion include raising membership dues, care of the graveyard, and the rules of being a member. The record journal notes who paid dues, how long they have been a member of the Society, and where members are buried in Charleston. The plot records include completed and blank application forms.

Collection Arrangement

1. Administrative Records, 1913-1966, 1981

2. Collection and Interment Records, 1934-1965

3. Plot Records, 1934-1965

Processing Information

Processed by Aaisha Haykal, 09,2011

Encoded by Aaisha Haykal, 09,2011

Inventory of the Humane and Friendly Society, 1934 - 1966, 1981 AMN 1114
Finding aid prepared by Processed by: Aaisha Haykal; machine-readable finding aid created by: Aaisha Haykal
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English

Repository Details

Part of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture Repository

125 Bull Street
Charleston South Carolina 29424 United States