Gautier leaders work to restore historic African American school - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gautier leaders work to restore historic African American schoolhouse

Gautier officials and preservationists want to turn a former one room schoolhouse built in the 1920s into a cultural museum. (Photo source: WLOX) Gautier officials and preservationists want to turn a former one room schoolhouse built in the 1920s into a cultural museum. (Photo source: WLOX)
GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) -

The City of Gautier is working to save an important piece of history that served as an education hub for African American children during segregation. 

“The building was recognized as a Mississippi Heritage Trust as one of the 10 most endangered places in Mississippi in 2013,” said project and grants manager Patty Huffman.

The home may look like a small, rundown building, but it is much more than that. It houses nearly 100 years of history.

“We are standing in front of the old Gautier Colored School, which was built in the 1920s for the early African American children to go to school. It was a one-room schoolhouse, and it housed about 20 to 40 children at a time,” said Huffman.

The segregated school is special to resident Chastity Bilbo.

“After reviewing some of the records, the Bilbo family did attend this school and some of the others prior to this location,” said Bilbo.

The schoolhouse closed in 1946. It was later used as a community center and even a polling place. Now, it sits empty.

“The building is still standing, but it's in very dilapidated conditions, as you can see from the broken windows and shingles that are loose. The inside needs repair,” said Huffman.

Concerned citizens, the city and the preservation commission want to save and repair the landmark to turn it into a schoolhouse cultural museum.

“That is what we are attempting to do is bring it along from where it originally was, so when people walk in to the building, they can visually get the feel of what it was like to be educated in a one-room schoolhouse using primitive means to partake in information,” historic schoolhouse committee member Rico Borrazzo said.

City officials said so far, they have raised around $7,000 to restore this facility. They also received a grant for $80,000, but more money is still needed. They are asking South Mississippians to dig deep in their pockets and give.

“Every dollar they put in that fundraiser goes into the school,” Borrazzo said.

“There are not a lot of historical black schools left here on the Coast, so it is great to restore the historical part of that,” Bilbo said.

A fundraiser kickoff reception for the Gautier Historic Schoolhouse and Cultural Museum Project will be held Thursday, June 11, at the Senior Citizens Center at 914 De La Pointe Drive in Gautier. The event starts at 5:30 p.m., and the public is invited.

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