The Greenville Cultural Exchange Center (GCEC) is an African-American history museum and culture center dedicated to the preservation of African-American history in the Greenville area.
GCEC History and Beginnings
Ruth Ann Butler, a former history teacher with Greenville County School System, founded GCEC in 1987. The inspiration for the Center occurred after Ms. Butler visited the Beck Cultural Exchange Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. She was very impressed with Knoxville’s effort to preserve its African-American history and envisioned a similar concept for Greenville.
If we do not take our history, collect and preserve it, eventually it will be forgotten and destroyed.
Ms. Butler, an avid researcher and history buff, has always been concerned about the absence of African-American history in most textbooks. While teaching history to seventh graders, she always collected history of African-Americans to supplement her lesson plans. Ms. Butler, the president and founder of GCEC, often states, “If we do not take our history, collect and preserve it, eventually it will be forgotten and destroyed.”
Preservation of African-American History
Ms. Butler began following her dream by organizing a steering committee consisting of City and County officials, business and community leaders, ministers, and other interested persons. During the first meeting held in Ms. Butler’s home, she shared what she had seen in Knoxville and presented her concept for Greenville.
With no prior experience in business or non-profit management, Ms. Butler pursued her dream of establishing the Greenville Cultural Exchange Center. She presented her vision everywhere she went.
On January 27, 1986 , GCEC received its 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service, and on August 22, 1987, the Greenville Cultural Exchange Center officially opened its doors with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. GCEC continued to operate on a “shoestring” budget until it was closed on May 25, 2001 due to structural damage.
Thanks to the support of “Friends of the Center” chaired by Helen Pinson, 107.3 JAMZ, over $70,000 was raised throughout the community in five months to renovate the Center in April 2002.