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A Legacy Lives On

Vernice Grant Moore remembered her schooldays at Martha Schofield High School in the early 1950s on Saturday – especially cold, winter days.

Moore and about 100 alumni and friends of the former Schofield High toured what is today Schofield Middle School as part of the Martha Schofield High School 150th anniversary celebration weekend.

Moore, who grew up in Aiken and returned home after 33 years in Jamaica, New York, attended Martha Schofield High when it was a wooden building, which was torn down to make room for a new brick building in the early 1950s, across from Schofield Middle on Kershaw Street. In those days, wood provided the only heat.

“In the wintertime, it would be so cold,” Moore said. “There was a big heater, and it burned wood. It was good, but when the fire went down, the boys in the class would go out and get more wood and put it in the stove. And in the summertime it would be really, really hot.”

Martha Schofield, a young Quaker woman from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, came to Aiken in 1868 and founded the Schofield Normal and Industrial School to serve formerly enslaved African-American youth.

The school trained teachers and, in addition to teaching reading, writing and math, offered vocational training in farming, carpentry, shoemaking, blacksmithing, cooking, sewing and other vocational and home skills.

“Martha Schofield's legacy still lives here,” said the Rev. Lester A. Smalls, who is with the Martha Schofield High School Alumni and Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit organization, and helped organize the anniversary weekend.

The foundation's objective is to serve the community, Smalls said. The foundation will hold a Founder's Day program and a youth empowerment conference Feb. 2, 2019.

“We are putting boots on the ground and moving forward,” Smalls said. “The best way, we feel, to keep our history alive is to keep our children involved in our history.”

Smalls, a graduate of the class of 1970, said the foundation plans to revive the Schofield Ball and have a picnic in June.

Because many of Martha Schofield High School's students migrated to New York after graduation, a group of women graduates established the Schofield Social Club in the city and founded the annual ball, which Smalls attended twice.

The foundation plans to hold a revival every fall, also, Moore said.

Smalls did not know how many students graduated from Martha Schofield High during its long history but estimated the number to be in the thousands.

“It was a large school with students from all over Aiken County,” he said. “They have rich careers. A lot of them are still here. We felt the time was just right to have a positive impact on the community. All classes have come together. It's great fellowship, and everyone has bought into the vision.”

Part of that vision is keeping the values Martha Schofield taught and her students and students after her learned, Smalls said.

“They become a part of our living and not just a conversation,” he said. “We live the history and infuse it into our lives as we go forward.”

In addition to the tour, the anniversary weekend's activities included a worship service at Friendship Baptist Church in Aiken, a brunch, a legacy basketball game and old-time pep rally, a banquet and a gospel praise concert at Thankful Grove Baptist Church in Windsor.

In 1951, the school, which served African-American students, became part of the county school district and was renamed Martha Schofield High.

In 1970, Schofield High and Aiken High School consolidated during desegregation, and ninth and 10th grade students attended classes on the Schofield campus. When South Aiken High opened in 1980, the school became Schofield Middle.

Today, the white bell tower that stands at the Schofield Middle's entrance is the only surviving structure from the original school on campus.


 

Read the full Aiken Standard Article HERE

Larry Wood/Aiken Standard
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