One woman's crusade to save old Kiln black school - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

One woman's crusade to save old Kiln black school


It was once called the Jourdan River Public School. Old timers know it as the old Kiln Elementary in Hancock County.

Little is known about the small school house off of Highway 603 that educated generations of African American children for more than a century. Age has certainly taken its toll on the building, and few are still around who attended the school.

WLOX News caught up with an alumnus of the school for this feature story in local black history.

Earllean Washington, 71, became a kid again at the sight of the two room school where she learned her alphabet.

"It has a lot of good memories, and I'm sure it does to everybody else who went to school here," said Washington.

Washington reminisced over the remnants of the old chimney that took the smoke from a wood burning stove and sent it out of the building. She remembers cozying up to the old stove that kept the classroom warm on cold days like today.

A lot has changed in schools since this one was built more than 100 years ago.

"Of course we had out-houses for bathrooms, and we had pump-water, old time pumps that's what we had for water."

She'd love to see the school used again somehow, but that would take a lot of money. That doesn't stop her from dreaming.

"If the building was restored, you could put a children's playground out here and people can bring their kids."  

She admits seeing the school house demolished would break her heart. Generations of black children were educated here.

"My mother went here and she graduated from eighth grade here, and I'm sure there were other's before her."

Washington's mother, Verta Bell Thomas, started school in the building in 1927. Washington began learning here in 1947 at the age of five.

"That's the only building that we have in the Kiln that represents our past. That's part of our black history that our children and our grandchildren will be able to see. If we can get enough people involved willing to work that goal, I think it's worth it."

More than ten years ago, there was talk of moving the school house up the road to the Kiln Library property and renovating it.

Library spokeswoman Mary Perkins said in the current economic climate, that's not likely to happen today.

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