Saturday I attended the dedication of the Hope School Community Center located on Hope Station Road near Prosperity, SC. This historic school is one of the few survivors of nearly 500 Rosenwald schools constructed in South Carolina between 1917 and 1932. Hope School served grades 1-8 in the African-American community for 28 years, from 1926 – 1954.
In the early 1900’s Junius Rosenwald was president of Sears Roebuck, and was instrumental in the development of their famous catalog. Rosenwald became interested in the state of education in the rural south, and developed a set of plans for schools that could be ordered and build easily, similar to the house plans that had been available through the Sears catalog. Rosenwald also provided funding for for many of the schools, targeting his efforts toward African-American communities in the south.
The Hope School was a two-room school built in 1925 on land donated by the Hope family. James H. Hope was state superintendent of schools from 1922-1946, and spearheaded many projects to reduce school funding disparities between wealthy and poor counties.
in 1954 the Hope School ceased being a schoolhouse, and became work space for the next door St. Paul A.M.E. Church. In 2002 it was added to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2007 the Hope School Community Center received a grant for renovation, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
I met Jay Hope a couple of years ago through work. Jay has worked for a couple of our technology vendors, and during one of our lunch meetings he told me about the hope school project. Jay and his cousin Ron Hope, along with Tenetha Hall from St. Paul A.M.E. have worked hard to restore the old school as a functioning community center. Today was the culmination of those efforts.
Jay served as master of ceremonies for the dedication. A brief history of the school was presented, and former students in the audience were recognized.
The program featured many speakers including Dr. Ron Knorr from Clemson, state senator Ronnie Cromer, Deputy Supt of Education Mark Bounds, Michael Bedenbaugh from the Palmetto Trust for Historic Education, and others.
One of the most distinguished guests was Jacquelyn Serwer, who is the chief curator of the new National Museum of of African American History and Culture. This newest addition to the Smithsonian Institution will open on the Mall in Washington D. C. in 2015. Included as part of the permanent exhibit will be desks and one of the original signs from the Hope School.
The folks involved with this project have much to be proud about. One of the things I like best about efforts of organizations like the Palmetto Trust is that they seek to turn these historic structures into viable facilities, and not just preserve them as museums. While it is a wonderful example of restoration and preservation, the Hope School will be an active part of the community, and many activities are already planned for the building.
I was unable to stay for all of the ceremonies. There was to be a lunch, followed by a reunion of Hope School Alumni in the afternoon. However, I was glad to be there for the part I could attend. Below is a Flickr slide show of the rest of the photos I took from the event.
When I first met Jay Hope I was very intrigued by the Rosenwald Schools and did a bit of Internet research. Here is a link to my research in Google Notebook. It includes links to many historic schools, and not just Rosenwald or Hope School.