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Winston-Salem area research project targeting segregated elementary schools of past

Winston-Salem area research project targeting segregated elementary schools of past
June 18
00:00 2015

In photo above: Oak Grove School off Bethabara Road is the only surviving structure in the county of the one-room school. (Submitted photo)

Special to the Chronicle

An extensive and comprehensive countywide research project is underway. Triad Cultural Arts Inc., the presenter of The Juneteenth Festival, has initiated “Celebrating Our Colored Elementary Schools.”

The project will document the history and legacy of more than 30 public and private schools in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County that educated African-American children before the forced integration in the early 1970s.

Skyland School, 14th Street School, Kimberly Park, Carver Crest, Mebane, Columbian Heights, Carver, Oak Grove, St. Benedict’s, Nelson’s Preparatory, Diggs and the Memorial Industrial School are some of the more familiar schools being researched. A major challenge is identifying in the county the 19 one-teacher schools that served African-American students in 1936.

Cheryl Harry, director of African-American programming at Old Salem Museums & Gardens and CEO of Triad Cultural Arts Inc., feels that these community institutions were key cultural hubs in the African-American neighborhoods, especially during the county and city’s growth years between 1920 and 1950.

The laws of segregation prohibited the intergration of blacks with whites in all aspects of daily life. Thus, there were separate schools for black children and white children.

Annette Scippio is the principal researcher and project coordinator. Since there is little to no documentation of the colored schools, Scippio’s goal is to collect as many stories, memories, photos and memorabilia related to each school as possible. Knowledge of the institutions resides in the memories of former students, parents, teachers, student/practice teachers and residents. Questionnaires are being distributed throughout the community, online and to out of state students and teachers. Personal interviews are being scheduled with many elderly residents.

Some fascinating information is being uncovered, such as the role of the city’s recreation department as early as 1919, in physical education and after school programs. For instance, in 1936, there were 19 one-teacher colored schools scattered in the county. Oak Grove School off Bethabara Road is the only surviving structure in the county of the one-room school.

In contrast, the colored elementary schools in the city had a significant economic impact. For instance, in 1938, 14th Street School served 1,779 students, employed 44 teachers and the property was valued at $358,638. Scippio says a community-wide celebration of the legacy of these institutions is planned when the research is complete. All former students, parents, teachers, student/practice teachers and community residents are asked to share their memories and memorabilia. Volunteers are distributing questionnaires to family and friends. Questionnaires are also available at www.triadculture.org.

To learn more about this initiative or to inquire about how to volunteer, visit the “Celebrating Our Colored Elementary Schools” booth at the Juneteenth Festival on Saturday, June 20, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fifth Street at the Winston Mutual Building, email wsfccols@nullyahoo.com or call (336) 582 2557.

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