Last remaining Rosenwald School in Dorchester County receives restoration grant

Published: Aug. 23, 2016 at 12:16 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2016 at 3:15 AM EDT
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ST. GEORGE, SC (WCSC) - The last remaining school in Dorchester County built in 1925 to educate African Americans received a grant from the works of Senator John Mathews and Representative Patsy Knight to help restore it.

They awarded the money in St. George on Monday.

The school is one of nearly 5,000 schools that were built across the south to educate black youth called Rosenwald Schools.

The school was named the St. George Colored School and later named Williams Memorial High.

Edith Oldham was four years old when she went to the school and now she's writing a book about it to share the history. She is also the secretary of the school's Board of Directors.

"This was the heart of the community always, but once it closed it became a social setting because in the schools at that time you weren't allowed to have dances so when the young people wanted to have affairs they would have it here," Oldham said.

Oldham along with the school's alumni association, town, and other groups are working to restore it. She lived a couple of blocks away from the school during her childhood. The school eventually expanded to provided education to students in first through twelfth grades.

It could cost up to $2 million to restore it from its current condition.

Ralph James attended the school and is the chairman of the Board of Directors for the school that is working to restore it. The school closed in 1954 when others school were built.

It was surrounded by black-owned businesses and was used as a gathering place during the Civil Rights Era.

"Hopefully, we can expand it to an educational opportunity for young persons and not only young. but everyone who did have the actual experience of the Rosenwald School," James said.

He said the community would call it Uptown St. George or Little Harlem.

Oldham says restoring the school is a way to share its history for generations to come.

"They ride by and they see these abandoned lots and they don't have a clue what was here, they don't understand the sacrifices that was made and the struggle it was to get this school and they need to know their history because if they don't they will be just lost," Oldham said.

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