The community of Zama, in Attala County, was named for the daughter of one of the town’s founders (“Brief History of Communities of Attala County,” Attala Historical Society). The first school building was constructed in 1907, and the building pictured above replaced the old school in 1949. The building was designed by Edgar Lucian Malvaney–without the fake arched windows (Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory database). Other than some of the school complex buildings, nothing remains but the Zama Baptist Church building a bit further down the road, which they seem to have vacated in favor of the school building, and the cemetery. The town grew following the establishment of a lumber mill, and “boomed” for 12 years, when both the Depression and using up most of the timber hit at the same time. At one time, Zama held two hotels (one for whites and one for blacks), a depot, jail, bank, post office, school, and later on, stores, cafes, barbershop, laundry, garages, and of course, churches (Attala Historical Society). The lumber mill moved out, taking with it employment opportunity.
When an increase in federal funds from the New Deal Administration was awarded to Mississippi in 1937, more than 40 new vocational units were added to schools (“Vocational Education expanded,” Hattiesburg American, August 19, 1937, p. 2). One of those new buildings, constructed by the National Youth Administration, was in Zama, and was completed in 1938. The vocational building is no longer extant. Also completed in 1938 was the new Zama gymnasium. The 1.5 story building bears similarity to other rural community gymnasiums constructed during that time period, such as the one in Thyatira, the only extant building remaining from the Thyatira school complex. There is no documentation as to the construction of the gymnasium, but its 1938 construction date at the same time as the vocational building might make it a candidate for having been built with New Deal funds. A number of rural school gymnasiums in Mississippi were constructed with NYA labor or WPA funds, such as the ones in Shaw and in Shelby.