Teachers, students keep memories of historical school alive in Georgia

Posted: Wednesday, April 02, 2003

KINGSLAND, Ga. -- Suppor-ters of a long-abandoned school that once served black children in rural South Georgia are working to have the structure declared a historic treasure.

"This was an old foundation of the black people, and we didn't want to see it go down," said Ethel Lee Glover, a former school cook and now part-time caretaker of the building.

The school, vacant since the 1950s, is now known simply by the community it once served: Kinlaw.

In the 1980s and '90s, the community held bake sales, cut and sold timber, requested donations and labored to bring the 1920s-era school back to its former glory.

Now they want to see it listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

"Everybody that came out of this community, came out of that school," said Judge Louis Williams, who attended the school for one year in the 1930s, came back to teach after fighting in World War II and now serves as a part-time municipal judge in Kingsland.

The school was built in 1921 with matching funds of $1,000 each from the Julius Rosenwald Fund, community donations and county funds. The school once educated African-American students in first through seventh grades.

Julius Rosenwald, who was president and chief executive officer of Sears, Roebuck and Co., worked with Booker T. Washington to establish about 5,000 such "Rosenwald Schools" throughout the South.

Last year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named these schools among the 11 most-endangered historic places in America.

Getting the old Kinlaw school listed on the National Register of Historic Places would provide these benefits:

n Recognition that the property is of significance to the nation, the state or the community.

n Consideration in any planning for federal or federally assisted projects.

n Eligibility for federal tax benefits.

n Qualification for federal assistance for historic preservation, when funds are available.

In Georgia, 242 Rosenwald Schools were built between 1918 and 1931. Jeanne Cyriaque, African-American programs coordinator for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Division, is cataloging the Rosenwald Schools in Georgia. The Kinlaw school is one of the best preserved, she said.

"The thing that really impressed me about the school is that the Kinlaw community had really taken care of the building," she said.

The Rev. Leon Washington of nearby Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church said the building is protected as long as the church stands. The 500-member church signed a covenant with the school's board of directors to pay the annual taxes on the property. The church does not own the building, govern its use or participate in its upkeep.

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