Local alumni hosting Black History Month exhibit
History collected for more than 30 years dating back as far as 1876 is being showcased at the Thyne Memorial Presbyterian Church in Chase City by Historically Black Schools of Mecklenburg County.
Historically Black Schools of Mecklenburg County is a nonprofit organization made up of the alumni of the four historically black schools that were located in Mecklenburg County. The alumni include those of Thyne Institute (which was located at the site of the current Chase City Elementary School), Mecklenburg County Training School of South Hill, East End High School (now Park View Middle School) and West End High School (now Bluestone Middle School).
About four years ago the alumni from those four schools came together and collectively agreed that something needed to be done to share with people how life was locally during the segregation era. West End High School alumnus Glanzy Spain explained, “We are getting older. If we don’t do something now, it will all be gone and forgotten.”
That initial meeting was the beginning of the Historically Black Schools of Mecklenburg County and the day planning started for the Black History Month exhibit,
Each year during Black History Month, the organization displays its collection of historical items that indicate what life was like for African-American youths and educators in Mecklenburg County during the segregation era. Many of the items are from the years 1876 to 1953.
Some of the objects displayed are photographs of one or two room “neighborhood schools,” a model replica of the first public high school for African-American youths in Mecklenburg County, the Mecklenburg County Training School facility, a cheerleading uniform from West End High School, photographs of students who moved to integrated schools during the freedom of choice period and a wall of faces of the first African-Americans to hold elected positions in Mecklenburg County.
Spain spends most of his time at the exhibit educating people on the rich history of African-Americans who lived through segregation. He said it is important to “show the journey,” especially to the youths of today who have no idea what segregation was like.
To better educate children on the history of segregation, the alumni of West End High School recently visited Bluestone Middle School for a two-day question-and-answer period to allow students to hear firsthand accounts. The idea behind hosting the Q&A session was that history class may be teaching the facts, but you wouldn’t truly know what it was like to go to segregated school unless you went to one. Spain said the days were filled with children asking question like “what was it like?” and “how did it feel?”
Not only are the alumni making school visits, but schools are coming to see the exhibit. The daycare next door the Thyne Memorial Presbyterian Church brought over a group of children to view the exhibit, and in the near future Chase City Elementary School will be having a field trip to visit the display.
Currently the exhibit is traveling, using different facilities each year that are available at the time with space enough to hold all of the objects.
One of the goals of the organization is to eventually have a permanent location within Mecklenburg County that will house all of the historical information and items. From the time the organization started it had a mission of purchasing land and building a museum large enough to showcase the collection all year round.