MARS HILL, N.C. (WLOS) — Educators in Madison County came together Tuesday to discover a unique location now available to them in the teaching of African American history. The site, recently rehabilitated, is a former schoolhouse built in 1928 to educate Black students in the county.
According to Will Wyatt, who manages and cares for the property, the builders of the school had a sincere desire to open up access to education.
“They were really dedicated to educating Black children,” Wyatt said. “But it was separate and not always equal.”
The Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School was built in Madison County’s Long Ridge community. The school was one of more than 5,300 schools built through a cooperative launched by Sears Roebuck president and CEO Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington, the most famous Black educator in the nation.
The two shared a common goal to educate young Black children in an effort to foster a Black middle class.
MADISON COUNTY EDUCATORS VISIT RESTORED, HISTORIC SCHOOL FOR BLACK STUDENTS
Today, nearly all of the schools are gone, leaving the Mars Hill Rosenwald school as one of the few left standing.
The effort to rehabilitate the school began in 2009, when community members got together and began the planning process. Over the interim years, they recruited state agencies, the Madison County School Board and several volunteer groups to partner in the project.
Dan Slagle served as a volunteer coordinator in the effort.
“Oh, it’s amazing,” said Dan Slagle, who served as a volunteer coordinator in the effort. “If you look at pictures of this building before it was worked on, you would not think that it would be worth saving. But, historically, it’s been well worthwhile.”
The building’s availability comes at the same time as the state of North Carolina has developed a school curriculum for African American studies. While the curriculum is not mandatory, the schoolhouse offers an opportunity for those educators who choose to teach the curriculum to bring their lessons to life.
State and county officials hope the historic location, now on the National Register of Historic Places, will serve as a reminder that education in Western North Carolina was not always readily accessible to everyone.