Fmr. Va. African-American school receives historic marker

Published: Dec. 11, 2016 at 8:00 PM EST
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Ninety-three years after it was built, an Albemarle County building is getting special recognition.

On Saturday, a historic marker was dedicated to honor the Rosenwald-Funded St. John School. The school was built in 1923 during a time of segregation and was a school for African American children.

The school has been through a lot of the years, but will soon find new life once again.

Decades ago the small building standing on the 1500 block of St.John road in Keswick was a school, once packed with children eager to learn.

Now for many like St. John's Alumna Bernice Mitchell, it's a place of memories.

"We had to walk to school," said Mitchell. "I walked three miles to school."

Growing up in times of segregation, Mitchell who is now 86 years old, along with her best friend Alberta Brasfield started at the school as children.

"It built the foundation," said Brasfield. "If this school wasn't here, we would've never learned to read and write."

The school closed in the 1950's, but nearly burned down after becoming privately owned. Not long after that the alumni created the nonprofit group St. John Family Life and Fitness Center, Inc. and began a journey to revive the school.

After a seven year journey, the group was able to get the school recognized as a historic site and dedicated a historic marker to the school as well.

"You apply for one of these markers and it's a competitive process," said Marc Wagner, of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. "The marker has to be a state-wide significant topic."

The nonprofit is also raising money to give the school a second-life, to be used as a fitness center.

Mitchell says no matter the use of the building, the historic marker will keep the story of St. John School alive, for generations to come.

"Those yet born will be happy to look at this marker and continue to be glorified as I am today." said Mitchell.

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