Pearl River County Schools: Part II

Last week we looked at some of the Pearl River County rural schools, many of which were consolidated schools, and all of which were white schools.  This week presents a look at the schools for African American students under the segregated system.  I was only able to locate 3 photographs, all of the same school, and almost no information about the 8 black schools (by MDAH records), most of which are no longer extant.  In contrast, I counted 25 white school complexes or schools in the county.  While many of the rural school buildings are not extant, a few from the white schools still exist.

Before I move into this week’s topic, take a look at the annotated photograph of  the McNeill school. Checking out the current Google maps for the McNeill complex, and comparing with the MDAH HRI map, I discovered that 5 of the early buildings are still extant.

McNeill School Campus

The first Pearl River County Training School administration building was constructed in 1900, Gothic Revival Style in Poplarville.  I did not find a location or other information.  According to Baughn (2012),

During the 1920s, the type of school for blacks closest to a white consolidated school was the ‘County Training School,’ a central high school encouraged by the John F. Slater Fund, Rosenwald Fund, and the General Education Board, and established for black students in at least thirty-three Mississippi counties by 1928. (A Modern School Plant: Rural Consolidated Schools in Mississippi, 1910-1955. Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, Vol. 19, No. 1., p. 48)

In 1919, the second Pearl River County Training School was completed, and MDAH identified it as a Rosenwald school, also no specification on location other than Poplarville. Baughn’s article, however, includes photographs of the 1900 Gothic Revival building–a frame two-story building with a bell tower and front one-story entry, and the 1919 replacement frame building under construction on the Rosenwald plan.  A subsequent MDAH entry lists the training school at Todd Street, and the map locates it near the current Raine Street Recreational Center, but no longer extant.  MDAH also listed a teacher’s house, 1921 and a vocational building constructed by the National Youth Administration, 1941.

White Chapel Rosenwald School was  one-teacher type school, built 1925-1926 for a total cost of $1257, located on the East side of Hwy. 43, near Fords Creek in the Poplarville vicinity.  The Fisk University database indicates Rosenwald funded $400, Public $300, Whites $100, and African Americans $457.  White Sand school was constructed c. 1930, Carriere school/Church c. 1940, and Hart’s Chapel school c. 1950.  Hart’s Chapel was demolished c. 2002.

In April 1951, Picayune finally dedicated a new high school-elementary building for African American students–the George Washington Carver High School (Clarion-Ledger, Apr. 30, 1951, p. 4).  Ceremonies were held in the new school auditorium and the dedicatory address was delivered by former Governor Hugh White.

Picayune High School 2

Picayune George Washington Carver High School, 1950-1970 Series 1896 School Building Slides, 1952-1972. Courtesy Mississippi Department of Archives & History Digital Archives

Series 1660, Mississippi Department of Archives and History Inventory of School Plans 1929-2002 lists construction beginning 1949.  In 1952, 4 classrooms, shop, cafeteria, and kitchen addition were added.  The architect was Overstreet & Associates.

Local businessman L. O. Crosby, Jr., one of the directors of the National Association of Manufacturers, sponsored the filming of Picayune industries and schools in December 1951.  NBC Television News filmed industrial plants in Picayune and,

Pictures were also taken of Picayune Memorial High School and the George Washington Carver High school, which is one of the most modern high schools for Negroes in the south. (Picayune to get national publicity, Clarion-Ledger, Dec. 2, 1951, p. 10)

The Picayune edition was part of NBC’s Industry on Parade series, 1950-1960, and was aired as “Forest Footnote! Lumber industry. Crosby Forest Products Co., Picayune, MS” (Reel # 64, 12/20/51, Industry on Parade Film Collection, 1950-1960, Archives Center, National Museum of American History).  The Carver High School, remembered with history and pictures at Willie L. Robinson’s website, only operated for 20 years.  A new East Side Elementary School was constructed in 1958, and the Todd Memorial School in 1959, details of which are available at the MDAH/HRI database.

The George Washington Carver High school was “fully accredited” according to principal J. P. Johnson, with a total enrollment of 675–75 in high school, 600 in grammar school, and in addition, 50 in the night classes of the veterans’ adult education program (Clarion-Ledger, Nov. 11, 1952, p. 7; Clarion-Ledger, Dec. 7, 1952, p. 22).

Categories: African American History, Historic Preservation, Picayune, Schools, Vernacular Architecture


4 replies

  1. It appears that Overstreet had a standardized plan for African American schools during the equalization period. George Washington Carver High School is similar to the Elementary Building at Marion County Training School. That building is pictured in Baughn’s article “Education, Segregation, and Modernization: Mississippi’s School Equalization Building Program, 1946-1961” published in the 2005 issue, Volume Sixteen of Arris: The Journal of the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians.

    George Washington Carver High School building still exists in a much remuddled, mutilated form. It has a metal hipped roof and all the large banks of windows have been vastly reduced in size, leading to what I imagine is now a very dark building inside.

    Liked by 1 person

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