Roanoke River Partners Preserving Historic Martin County School

By: April Davis/ Cassandra Bell
By: April Davis/ Cassandra Bell

Although many of the structures once known as Rosenwald Schools have been torn down, there are a few still hanging on by a thread across the east.

The state of North Carolina and the Tuskegee Institute is taking a renewed interest in the remaining buildings. In some cases, private groups are making a push to preserve this valuable piece of history.

From the Cherry Colored School in Washington County, to the St. Luke Colored School in Bertie County, the structures may not look like much to those traveling roads in eastern carolina, but for the former students, like Charles Sutton, they represent one of the most important parts of his childhood.

"This is a jewel now sitting here and I wish I could get more around me to realize this is what we have in our community," said Sutton.

One community in Martin County did see the jewel and started renovating.

Renovation to the Hamilton Colored School started primarily because of the Roanoke River and its proximity to the building. The Roanoke River Partners found out about the structure and wanted to increase tourism to the area. They started to talk to some folks in the community and took up the cause.

"The community rallied around us and people reached into their pocket and besides some grants, individuals contributed to the purchase of the school," said Carol Shields with the Hamilton Rosenwald Project.

The group made the purchase, shored up the outside, fixed the roof and windows, gave it a nice paint job and now they're preparing to take the work inside.

"This preserved Rosenwald School, we envision as an economic generator for our region- a place where people can come and learn about the Rosenwald history as we are able to tell it," said Shields.

Carol Shields not only plans to tell the story here in eastern carolina, but nationally. So that groups like the one Charles Sutton hopes to form will have a blueprint to their own renovations.

In Alabama this coming June will be the first national Rosenwald Conservation Conference where people from all across the country will share what they know

What they know about making this jewel of the past, a thriving part of our future.

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