POMARIA — In 2010 an historic marker was erected at the Hope Rosenwald School, located at 1971 Hope Station Road in Pomaria. This rural African American school was funded, in part, by the Julius Rosenwald Foundation.
The historic marker text reads: “The school, built in 1925-26 at a cost of $2,900 was one of more than 500 rural African American schools in S.C. funded in part by the Julius Rosenwald Foundation between 1917 and 1932. The original two-acre lot for the school was donated by James H. Hope, Mary Hope Hipp, and John J. Hope. James H. Hope, then S.C. Superintendent of Education, was its longest serving head, 1922-1947. This two-room school, with grades 1-8 taught by two teachers, closed in 1954, in 1958 it was sold to the Jackson Community Center and Cemetery Association, comprised of nine members of the adjacent St. Paul A.M.E. Church. That group maintained the school for many years. It became the Hope Community Center in 2006 and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.”
The background of how the school was established starts in 1915, according to the S.C. Department of Archives and History’s website. Sears & Roebuck president Julius Rosenwald established a matching grant fund in his name to construct better quality African American schools throughout the south.
Between 1917 and 1932, more than 5,000 school buildings were constructed across the country, with 500 of them built in South Carolina.
Hope School is one of the few Rosenwald Schools remaining in Newberry County and over the years, Tenetha Hall and her family have worked tirelessly to make sure Hope School is remembered.
“Hope School is very dear to me because my parents, John Flemon and Willie Mae Flemon, chaired the Hope School project along with seven other members of the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church to buy Hope School back from the Newberry County School District in 1958, for $500, as the Jackson Cemetery Association,” Hall said. “They sold hot dogs, hamburgers and sodas to raise the money to buy the school.”
Hall’s nine siblings all attended Hope School. Although she did not attend, she said she can remember the school being used as a community center for the church and the community. She said to her, this is history all by itself.
“Hope School lives within my spirit and I have great hope and expectations for it,” she said.
Lillie Mae Flemon Wise, Hall’s sister, worked on the project first, trying to raise funds to help restore the school. Along with their brother Joe Flemon, they traveled from house to house selling merchandise to raise funds for the school. Wise also took orders by phone.
“They also held two class reunions along with the alumni at St. Paul’s Church to help raise funds,” Hall said. “In 2003, my sister died, and the plan for Hope School stopped. As I began to look back and think about how hard by sister worked trying to raise funds for Hope School, God gave me the vision to continue on what my sister started.”
Hall knew she could not do it alone, so she contacted Andy Morris, a Newberry County councilman at that time. He directed her to contact the S.C.a Department of Archives and History.
“From that point I was directed by Elizabeth Johnson and Leah Brown. They sat in on our monthly meetings for many months and gave us guidelines on how to get started with this project,” Hall said. “Others that attended some of our meetings were Tracy Powell, Dan Elswick, Andy Chandler, Tracy Hayes, Joseph McGill, Sen. Ronnie Cromer and Rep. Walt McCleod.”
In 2005, Hall went to a two-day Rosenwald Convention in Roanoke, Va., along with some of the staff from Archives and History. They toured several completed Rosenwald schools and attended workshops. Hall said that was her education on what was needed prior to writing a grant.
“In 2006, I applied for a grant to the South Carolina Budget and Control and was awarded $100,000 in 2007 to help restore the Hope School. I have never taken a grant writing class, but it was God that worked through me and gave me the knowledge, understanding and wisdom,” Hall said. “After receiving the grant, I formed a restoration committee of six Hope School alumni. Later, Ron Hope and Jay Hope stopped by and had interest in the school, I invited them to join the committee and Ron agreed to restore Hope School for us at no cost, and Jay became the historian of the school.”
The school has been restored, and is used for meetings and community events.
Hall has also worked to keep the memories alive of the Hope School. Some of the things she has learned is that there was no hot food, or electricity. Water was drawn from the Summer’s Store about half a mile from the school’s location.
“Their classes consisted of reading, writing and arithmetic. Most of them brought fat back and a biscuit for lunch,” she said.
Hall’s sister told her that they carried a greasy brown paper bag to school each day for lunch, but her sister never told her what was in it. Most of the students walked four or five miles to go to school, and classes began at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 2:30 p.m.
“Occasionally the state would bring them some coal, what was left from the white school,” Hall said. “Most families had nine to 16 children, consisting of the Flemons, Rutherfords, Metts, Robinsons, Halls and Hellers. This tells us it was a full house of students attending.”
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.