We continue with the series written by Elyse Bittner, who is a member of our Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Advisory (IDEA) Board. This fascinating series provides details of African American life in Harrison Township going back to the beginning of the 20th century:
This February, in celebration of Black History Month, IDEA Board vice-chairperson, Margo Brooks-Carthon, sat down with Deacon Robert Greene, in the second of a three-part series. Here are some highlights from the conversation Margo had with Deacon Greene about the little-known – but not forgotten – High Street School, that once stood right here in Mullica Hill.
In the early 1900’s, black and white children attended the same village schools in Mullica Hill. Children in grades kindergarten and first grade went to Harmony School, and children in grades 2 through 8 went to Union Academy. That was until 1919, when black families in town built the High Street School, “because their children could no longer attend other schools due to segregation”, Deacon Greene said.
High Street school was located on the street of the same name. The one-room building opened in January 1920, mid-school year. “Only the older boys were allowed to go and play ball in the field back by the old oak tree,” Deacon Green said. “The younger children and girls had to play in the side yard. “There was no running water in the school, so students had to wash using water in a basin after returning from the out-house. No meals were provided so students brought their own brown bag lunch.”
Deacon Green said that the school was within walking distance to most of the students who lived on High Street. He said, “It provided employment for colored teachers, whose salaries ranged from $1000 to $1100 per year. The class sizes for the years 1922 through 1949 ranged from 26 to 49 students in the one-room school house.”
High Street School closed at the end of the 1949-1950 school year. According the Deacon Greene, the building was purchased by a family in 1951, and along with the grounds, was used for the storage of farm supplies. In the 1990’s, The High Street School was demolished to create a homesite for the family.
We look forward to Elyse and Margo’s final entry in this series next week, when we will hear more about the High Street School and growing up as an African American in our town in the first half of the 1900’s.