history parkersburg colored schools - Mackey's Antiques & Clock Repair


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The history of the colored schools is unique in at least two particulars: The first free school in the city of Parkersburg were for colored children and supported by the private funds of colored men; the first public schools south of Mason and Dixon's Line for colored youth were in this city. These two statements, according to the best evidence at hand, seem to be settled beyond question. On the first Monday in January, 1862, a number of the best colored men in this city met to advise ways and means for the instruction of colored children. An organization was perfected, a constitution and by-laws framed. A board consisting of Robert Thomas, Lafayette Wilson, Wm. Sargeant, R. W. Simmons, Charles Hicks, William Smith and Matthew Thomas was elected to carry out the provisions of the organization. A school was established to which all colored children were admitted. Those who were able to pay it were charged one dollar a month tuition, but those who were not able were admitted free. Among the first teachers were Sarah Trotter and Pocahontas Simmons, both colored, and Rev. S. E. Colburn, a white man. The first school enrolled about forty pupils. From that time to the present, the colored youth of this city have enjoyed school privileges.


In the Weekly Times, a paper published here of date June 7, 1866, appears the following notice: "The first public free school for the colored children of the city of Parkersburg, West Virginia, was opened in the school ward lately removed. All colored children over 6 years of age and under 21, as the law directs, are at liberty to attend and are requested to do so. Rev. S. E. Colburn, Teacher. With this notice probably dates the beginning of the public schools for colored children under the provisions of the Constitution of the State, a time four years later than when colored schools began. After this the organization formed in 1862 ceased to exist and the colored schools have been under the same Board of Education as the white schools. The last session of the colored schools under the original plan ended with a school exhibition, in 1866, by colored pupils in Bank Hall under the charge of the teacher, T. J. Ferguson. The colored schools struggled along overcoming many obstacles for ten or more years, when, with the appointment of a superintendent for all the schools, the course of instruction was improved, the work of the teachers inspected and the schools placed upon a better footing.


For some years the colored schools have had, so far as text books, supervision and course of instruction are concerned, the same opportunities as the white schools. The improved condition in the colored schools is, generally recognized. After completing the same primary and grammar course as in the white schools, the pupils take up algebra, general history, geometry, civil government, physical geography, physics, rhetoric and literature. A general review in the advanced work of the common branches is also given, and when the course is completed a teacher's certificate or a diploma is given, as the Board of Education may determine. For several years the High School for colored youth in this city was the only one in the State.


The first class was graduated and given diplomas in 1887 and every year since then except 1890 and 1892 there have been graduates. The total number of graduates is 23. The colored school building is a brick structure of four rooms, on Avery street, near Tenth. The building was originally two rooms, but was enlarged in 1883 to its present size. As has been stated, the original plan of the schools changed in 1866 during the administration of T. J. Ferguson, a man who was at that time a leading character, not only in educational circles, but in the politics of the country, justly ranked with Bruce Langston, Lynch, Small, and Douglass, that brilliant coterie of colored men who in their day and generation laid the foundation for the enjoyment of the fuller opportunities which colored people of the nation possess to-day. The work of J. L. Camp extended through a period of about eleven years. During his administration there were but few if any of the higher branches taught. He was a man of sterling character and though long since passed to his reward, his work is still going on and he is still remembered by the community in which he spent so many years of faithful toil.


The Sumner High School, by which name the school is now known, was established in 1886. A. W. Peques, of Richmond Theological Institute was its first principal. He was a man of many scholarly attainments and an excellent teacher. He remained but one term, however, resigning to accept a chair in a university of North Carolina. He has since become an author of considerable note. He was succeeded by T. D. Scott, of Wilberforce University, who remained in charge five years and succeeded in building up a strong course of study . He resigned in 1892 to accept the chair in natural sciences at his alma mater. Mr. Scott was followed by C. H. Barnett, of Denison University, who remained but one year. He in turn was succeeded by John R. Jefferson, of Pomeroy, who took charge in the autumn of 1893. He held the position for nine consecutive years. During his administration the enrollment reached its highest point, and the school was in a flourishing condition. He resigned in 1902 and was succeeded by Mr. B. S. Jackson, of Howard University, Washington, D. C. In 1905 Mr. Jackson vacated the position, which was again filled by the appointment of John R. Jefferson, the present principal.


A handsome new building of six rooms is now being erected, which will be ready for occupancy by March first. It is provided with all modern improvements and equipments, and will be perhaps the best school building for colored pupils in the state. When this building is occupied one additional teacher will be employed. The future of the colored schools seems no less bright than that of the other schools and the education of the colored race promises as successful results in this city as anywhere else in the United States.


the Supreme Court ended school segregation in 1954. Sumner closed down in 1955. It was later reopened for children with mental disabilities , Sumner in 1955, shortly after closing down in late 1954 and being converted to the Sunshine School.  today the building is the Sumnerite African-American History Museum and Multipurpose Center




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