HICKORY GROVE, S.C. (CN2 NEWS) – More than 60 years ago a group of Hickory Grove students would be surprised to know they would soon become a part of history. This Saturday, September 18th the Hickory Grove Rosenwald School will get a South Carolina Historic Marker.
The Hickory Grove Community Preservation Committee meeting at the St. James Rosenwald school, on this Thursday, remembering what their education there meant.
Former student and now Hickory Grove Community Preservation Committee Treasurer, Eva Byrd says, “You know everybody was family here, and our teachers were family.”
Built by area farmers between 1929 and 1930, this two classroom school house was one of many built for mostly rural communities African-American students. This school system created by Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck and Company helped establish nearly 5,000 schools for black students, between 1912 and 1932.
Hickory Grove Community Preservation Committee President and former student, Robert Good, says, “I learned that it was something special I guess about 1996, I was living in Raleigh and I found out that Rosenwald schools – two room schools — were special. I said, ‘Oh, there’s one of those in my hometown’.”
Now, more than 60 years after the school closed its doors, those same doors are re-opening to be honored as a South Carolina historical marker.
“This marker that’s going to be put out there, is something that’s going to be written down and that’s something we in the black community don’t really have. We kind of pass things down verbally, but this marker will be here hopefully forever,” says Good.
After the school’s closing in 1957, a family came together to remodel the building, making it a church, St. Paul’s.
Hickory Grove Community Preservation Committee Vice Chair, Carl Bankhead, says, “My dad and uncles they took an interest in it. They had a smaller church down in the country so they came in somehow acquired the permission to use the school.”
With such a long history in the community this committee’s leaders reflect on what they hope black youth take away from this moment.
“When I was coming up, you didn’t get an education like you can today, you weren’t privileged to have an education. So I’m hoping they realize the importance of today and having an education,” says Byrd.
“It was just a fun place to be and I think it got me interested in academics and so it started me thinking about things other than down on the farm,” says Good.
This is the second Rosenwald school in the area to get this honor and CN2’s Rachel Richardson is speaking with the Hickory Grove former students about what this dedication means.