Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Division Street School

The Division Street School is little known but amazing historic site currently open to the public in New Albany, Indiana. It was built in 1884, first day of classes were New Years Day, 1885, and it operated until 1946. It was a racially segregated school for African American children so the stories they are able to tell are in interesting mix of education in the past and the too often forgotten story of racial segregation in Indiana. Let's take a look inside:

This is the classroom where grades 1, 2, and 3 met:

Originally, there were outhouses in the back, but when plumbing was installed, it was in the basement, and boys and girls had separate staircases:

 The grades 4, 5, and 6 classroom is now used as exhibit space. This is a comparison between actual seats that were available to Whites and African Americans at The Grand Theater in New Albany (which is still standing and used as a rental facility for special events). I was invited to sit on each, which made for a much more powerful comparison than just seeing it does:

The seats for African Americans were just numbered sections on a bench:

Both times I have been shown around the museum, it was by Vic Megenity, one of the people responsible for saving the building when it was threatened with destruction in 1999 and turned it into a museum:

His partner in the project was Kathryn Hickerson, a graduate of the school, now deceased. She lived just long enough to see her dream for the place become a reality:

I had to take this photo through glass but the girl front and center is Ms. Hickerson during her high school days:

Today, the museum is open for walk in tours from 1pm-3pm every Saturday or by appointment. Every 4th Grader in the Floyd County School System spends a full day of instruction at the Division Street School as it would have been at the turn of the century, complete with lunches prepared according to the recollections of surviving students: a cheese or bologna sandwich with an apple or carrot sticks (milk substituted for the well water). These were the last two teachers at the school, Ms. Mamie Starks and Ms. Vivian Smith. According to those who remember, crossing them was just something you did not do!

No comments:

Post a Comment