Boggs Academy was founded by the Reverend Dr. John Lawrence Phelps. The vision of Boggs Academy began during the summer of 1906, which was a year of extreme racial tension in the south. Amid this climate, Phelps accepted the challenge to establish a school built on Christian principles, which would educate African American youth. Phelps set about building a church and school with the support of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. and the local community.
The initial two acres of land were donated by Morgan Walker, donations were collected and a church was erected (Morgan Grove Presbyterian Church). By December of the same year, the church doors were opened, and by January 1907, an independent school was opened in the church. Five children were enrolled into Boggs Academy when it opened. The school was named after Virginia P. Boggs (Corresponding Secretary of the Presbyterian Board of Missions For Freedmen) as a tribute for her faithful zeal, commitment to the school’s success and her support and friendship to Reverend Phelps while he was a student at Biddle University (Now known as Johnson C. Smith University). In 1930, the original church was destroyed by fire and another building was erected through the generosity of the Blackburn family of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the new chapel, which is still standing on the Boggs campus, was named the John I. Blackburn Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.
Numerous private African American schools were established after the Civil War because there were no public schools for African American students in the South. Boggs began primarily to serve the local African American community. After the public school opened in Burke County in the 1950s in response to integration laws, Boggs increasingly functioned as a preparatory school for the African American middle class from Georgia and other states. Boggs Academy had also negotiated a settlement that allowed both white and black people to serve on its faculty. Over the years the Boggs student body and campus continued to grow and flourish with additional acreage, buildings and capabilities.
The Academy ceased operation in 1986, with the last graduating class matriculating in 1984. However the story does not end there. A dedicated group of alumni and advocates protested and petitioned the Presbyterian Church to release the deed to the property and create a new entity to continue the Boggs Academy legacy of lifelong learning and opportunity.
In 1991, Boggs Academy transitioned to Boggs Rural Life Center (BRLC), a non-profit formed to continue the mission of addressing needs and issues in Burke and surrounding counties.
The Boggs Rural Life Center, Inc. was established principally through the leadership and efforts of the Boggs Community Development Corporation (BCDC), the Keysville Concerned citizens (KCC), and the Burke County Improvement Association (BCIA); three groups which for years shared a history of significant accomplishments in civil rights actions in city, county, and school board governance in Burke County and leadership in religious and civic matters
The BRLC Board of Directors, elected officials, alumni and citizens all have strong commitment to making sure that Boggs moves successfully into the future. They are aggressively pursuing an innovative and practical approach to building reuse, educational functions, and economic development opportunities.