Walt's Look Around: Poplar Hill School

Published: Mar. 3, 2012 at 3:12 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 26, 2012 at 7:27 PM CST
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JEFFERSON COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) - This is Poplar Hill School out west of Fayette in Jefferson County. The school itself was started by the Poplar Hill AME Church about 1890. This building was built about 1923 or so. At one time, almost every black church out in the country had a school. But as public education became more available, by the 1950s, most of the old one and two room schoolhouses were abandoned. And even though they were once everywhere, now only a handful survive. Roosevelt Cruel went to first through 7th grade in this building, and walked from home here everyday, along with about 60 other youngsters in the area to this building.

Roosevelt Cruel: If you can see wall there, there was a divider. It was a two-room schoolhouse. On the opposite side over there they would go from 1st to 4th grade. And after 4th then they would come on this side to another teacher who would go from 4th to 7th grade.

Walt: Sidney Jackson says this school was his only formal education. Although he became a very successful machinist after going up North for a career.

Sidney Jackson: I couldn't afford to go to finish high school there, so I just quit school and worked in the fields with my daddy for the whole year because my daddy got sick. And when we gathered the crop that year, I left Mississippi and went to learn how to do something other than sweep the floor.

Walt: Charles Sheppard is editor of the Fayette Chronicle, and is also on the board of directors for Poplar Hill School. He says his paper has records of dozens of church related schools like this once in existence at one time. Now this is one of just two buildings like it still standing in the county.

Charles Sheppard: Our envision as a board is to bring the elementary students from the public school system to this institution right here, this museum, and have them have lessons.

Walt: Lorrine Lias is from nearby Alcorn State University. She says Poplar Hill School has also attained another recent accolade.

Lorrine Lias: It is on the list of 101 places in Mississippi that you need to see before you die.

Walt: And thanks to these people on the board, and former students and other folks who will be making contributions, the building will still be alive so you can visit it.

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