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Transcript of oral history interview February 2, 2010.
Interviewed by Kerry Taylor, Director of The Citadel's Oral History Initiative and Assistant Professor in The Citadel History Department.
Transcript 44 p.

Father Leonard Cunningham (1923-2010) was born in Charleston, SC to Harley and Marion Cunningham. In this interview, conducted several months before his death, Cunningham discusses his rich family history. His ancestors included a former Confederate officer and federal judge, a midwife, a Baptist minister, a supporter of Marcus Garvey, and many skilled craftsmen. His father was a skilled plasterer and ornamental worker who worked on the Francis Marion Hotel, as well as many historic Charleston homes. He also built the family home at 15 Larnes St. and sent his children to the Immaculate Conception School. In 1950, Cunningham was ordained a Catholic priest, joining the Holy Ghost Fathers. That year he became the first African American priest to celebrate mass at the Cathedral of St. Johns in Charleston. In 1960, he joined the community at Mepkin Abbey, but was given leave a few years later to work in North Charleston during the civil rights movement. This interview was conducted in conjunction with College of Charleston graduate student Joi Mayo’s 2011 thesis, “A Beacon Light: Immaculate Conception School's Encouragement of Charleston's Black Middle and Upper Classes.”


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