ORANGEBURG, S.C. – South Carolina State University alumnus and staff member Michael Allen has been named a recipient of the 2021 Governor’s Awards in the Humanities.
Established in 1991, the Governor’s Awards in the Humanities recognize outstanding achievement in humanities research, teaching, and scholarship; institutional and individual participation in helping communities in South Carolina better understand our cultural heritage or ideas and issues related to the humanities; excellence defining South Carolina’s cultural life to the nation or world; and exemplary support for public humanities programs.
A native of Kingstree, South Carolina, Allen earned his degree in history education from SC State in 1982 and was named a Distinguished Alumnus in 2014.
Michael Allen outside Wilkinson Hall at SC State.
He returned to his alma mater in a part-time capacity in October 2019 as a liaison between SC State and his previous employer, the National Park Service. As a historic preservationist, he monitors compliance to standards and policies for SC State’s Wilkinson Hall renovation project, which is supported by NPS grants.
Allen’s career has been defined by his community activism and his deep-seated interest in our nation’s spiritual growth as it relates to history and culture. He began his public career as a cooperative education student with the National Park Service in 1980. He has served as a ranger, an education specialist, and a community partnership specialist for the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.
He played a major role in the National Park Service’s Gullah-Geechee Special Resource Study which examined the feasibility and suitability of establishing educational centers as well as determining ways to increase interpretation and preservation of this valuable culture. Through the leadership of U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn, who is also an SC State alumnus, and the tireless support of Allen, the U.S. Congress passed the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Act in 2006 to establish the United States’ first and only African American National Heritage Area.
He has also been involved in designing exhibits and presenting interpretive programs to attract non-traditional audiences to National Park Service sites. In 1999, he was instrumental in erecting the “African Importation Historic Marker” on Sullivan Island. In 2008, he assisted the Toni Morrison Society in erecting a “Bench by the Road” at Fort Moultrie. In 2009, he was instrumental in unveiling “African Passages,” an exhibit which highlights the African arrival, presence and contributions to American society.
In 2014, the National Parks Service appointed Allen as a lead team member on the NPS Special Resource Landmark Study exploring the history and legacy of the Reconstruction Era. As a result of this groundbreaking study, a new National Park Service site called the Reconstruction Era National Monument was established by Presidential Proclamation on Jan. 12, 2017.
His community service has included being a founding board member of the International African-American Museum, a founding member and former vice president of the South Carolina African-American Heritage Commission, former treasurer for the South Carolina Council for African-American studies, board member for The African-American Historical Alliance and the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival Association, and member of the South Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, which oversaw the observance of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
Allen received the Historic Preservation Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the Governor of South Carolina’s Office in 2013. A year later, Allen received the Robert G. Stanton Award, named for the first African American director of the National Park Service. The award recognizes sustained and innovative achievements in promoting racial or ethnic diversity in the management of North America’s natural, historic and cultural heritage.
After more than 37 years in public service, Allen retired from the National Park Service in December 2017.
Allen lives in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, and he is an elder at Christ Temple Church of North Charleston. His wife, Latanya Allen is a graduate of SC State (Class of 1987), as are his two children, Shaelyn (Class of 2017) and Isaiah (Class of 2021).
South Carolina Humanities will host the 2021 Governor’s Awards in the Humanities Luncheon and Award Ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 21, in Columbia.