Palestine Magazine May 2019 - Page 19

HISTORICAL SCHOOL Green Bay School African American school had can-do spirit F ifty-three years ago, a piece of Palestine’s past faded into memory: Green Bay High School’s last graduating class walked across the stage and received their diplomas, a traditional rite of passage into the adult world. Three months later, in August 1966, the area’s only African-American high school, 10843 S. Highway 79, closed. De- segregation moved Green Bay’s black students into the Westwood School District, then called Woodhouse. A renovated Green Bay Commu- nity Center now sits where Green Bay School taught more than 100 students, from first to 12th grade. Green Bay High School traces its origin to Oct. 11, 1899, when 11 Afri- can American men formed a board of trustees and organized a school for area black children. Neither Norris Hunt, class of 1966, nor June McCoy, class of 1955, experi- enced desegregation, but their families and friends did. Education taught at the two schools could not have been more different. “The teachers at Green Bay took it personally,” Hunt said. They concentrated on the academic basics: arithmetic, writing, and reading. “We had good English teachers,” McCoy said. “I had the basic foundation that prepared me to take notes, use a library, and read, comprehend, and master the college material. It helped me, with a limited background, to survive on a college campus.” Green Bay teachers were like parents, Hunt said. “You got real individualized class attention,” Mc- Coy said. She said her fondest memory of Green Bay, where her graduating class consisted of 12 students, was getting well-grounded in the fundamentals, even though the school had limited resources and hand-me-down textbooks from white students. When Green Bay closed, its employees were trans- ferred to Westwood, often to different positions. McCoy’s father, the principal at Green Bay, oversaw Westwood’s school buses. McCoy’s mother, a home economics teacher for more than 30 years at Green Bay, worked under a white teacher with much less experience, before quitting. A few Green Bay students remain troubled that all the school’s athletic trophies have since disappeared. “It was like our history did not exist but we overcame,” McCoy said. Hunt’s grandfather, Oneal Hunt, who graduated from Green Bay, became Anderson County’s first black justice of the peace in the 1930s and 40s. He served 14 years. “So much has come out of that school,” McCoy said. “Green Bay had the can-do spirit.” APRIL 2019 19