Contributed by: Coddy Carter
Looking at the gymnasiums for both the former Washington Park Elementary School and the current Jasper County Middle School, the physical similarities are clear. Both schools started operation as Jasper County Training School and Monticello High School, respectively, during the 1956-57 school year. Jasper County Training School housed black students from grades one through twelve while white students in secondary grades attended Monticello High School. The physical appearances and the founding years of the schools were not coincidences. The story behind the schools is one that started long before one brick was laid in the 1950s, and it is one intertwined with the history of education in Georgia.
Washington Park School. Image courtesy of Google Maps.
Monticello High School. Image courtesy of Google Maps.
COUNTY TRAINING SCHOOLS AND PUBLIC EDUCATION FOR BLACKS
The inscription on the cornerstone marker at the old Washington Park School still reads, “Jasper County Training School.” County training schools were established in rural areas throughout the South with the intention that they would serve as places where black students would be “trained” to occupy their places in society. Robert C. Ogden, a supporter of early black schools, once stated, “our great problem is to attach the Negro to the soil and prevent his exodus from the country to the city.” The period between 1890 and 1910 also saw the emergence of Booker T. Washington as the founder of Tuskegee Institute and the figurehead of the Hampton-Tuskegee model of education. The Hampton-Tuskegee curriculum balanced academic subjects with practical fields such as agriculture and carpentry. Washington appealed to philanthropists by using their own words and attaching alternate meanings to them. He once proclaimed, “our greatest danger is that in the leap from slavery to freedom we may overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by the productions of our hands.” Washington intended it to mean that students could make a living even if they chose not to attend college, but financial supporters interpreted his statement as encouraging blacks to be in subservient positions. Washington believed that learning practical trades would allow students to one day be able to purchase their own farms, sell their own crops, build homes in their communities, and start business rather than being limited to menial jobs in factories or sharecropping.
The building of most county training schools across the South was the result of the Rosenwald School Building Program. Julius Rosenwald, the namesake for the fund, had been spurred to start supporting black schools by Booker T. Washington. It started when Rosenwald gave a gift of $25,000 to Tuskegee Institute and an additional $12,000 to build local schools near Tuskegee. After those initial gifts, he wanted to support other rural schools that would eventually supply Tuskegee and similar institutions with their student bodies. Rosenwald had one requirement before supporting a school: he would only provide money if local black communities matched his contribution. No matter the obstacles placed in front of them by philanthropists or the intended purposes of county training schools, the black community of Jasper County raised enough money to ensure that Jasper County Training School would be a place where children would be educated and not trained.
Despite lacking the comparative wealth held by the white community, Jasper County’s black citizens raised the bulk of the money to build Jasper County Training School. At a total cost of $8,000, blacks provided the bulk of the funds at $4,200, while $2,200 came from taxes, and Rosenwald Fund provided $1,600. They not only matched the contribution of the Rosenwald Fund but almost tripled it. Whereas the state average for black community fundraising across the state of Georgia was 18 percent, the collective of black people in Jasper County put up 54 percent of the building fund. A testament of their commitment to education, the children and grandchildren of slaves pieced together money and old materials from the former Monticello Academy/High School to build a school that would educate their own children and grandchildren. Even if that meant those children would one day leave Monticello for opportunities elsewhere, they would at least be armed with the education to pursue those prospects.
Original Jasper County Training School. Photo courtesy of Fisk University Rosenwald Database.
At the time when Jasper County Training School was built in 1921, college and any education beyond eighth grade was a longshot for blacks in rural Georgia. At the time, 122 public high schools served white students in Georgia while none existed for their black peers. Black students wishing to further their education from Monticello and surrounding rural areas had to travel to either Macon, Fort Valley, or Atlanta. Ballard, Lewis, and Hudson high schools were located in Macon. Fort Valley High and Industrial School, the eventual Fort Valley State University, Clark College, and Atlanta University had each developed laboratory schools that allowed students to enter college courses after completing a high school curriculum. Attending high school was a privilege as it required financial resources that hardworking farmhands and day laborers often did not have.
THE EQUALIZATION PERIOD
The Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954 declared that ‘separate but equal’ public schools were fundamentally unequal. Though Monticello High School and Jasper County Training School started operating during the 1956-57 school year, they were not responses to the ruling. Though they would help to evade desegregation, they were actually built under a plan that had been enacted before Brown v. Board ever reached the Supreme Court.
In 1949, Georgia governor Herman Talmadge and the Georgia General Assembly drafted a plan that would eliminate geographic, class, and racial barriers to quality education. The plan would satisfy its goals by building modern, International-style schools, instituting a nine-month school calendar, and requiring 12th grade for high school students. It was called the Minimum Foundation Program for Education. By 1951, Governor Talmadge had instituted a three cent sales tax to finance the building of new schools.
Schools built during this period would later come to be known as “equalization schools” such that Georgia was seeking to make good on the promise of ‘separate but equal’ schools assured by the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) decision. Moreover, Governor Talmadge noticed the pattern of desegregation in other sectors. President Harry Truman had already desegregated the Armed Forces with Executive Order 9981 in 1948, and the University of Arkansas had desegregated the same year. With the help of court orders, black students had also started entering formerly all-white law schools in the Midwest. It seemed that elementary and secondary schools in the South would be next, and the segregationist governor would do whatever necessary to keep schools separated by race.
Black schools built under the equalization program would replace wooden Rosenwald schools and other small rural school buildings. The plan guaranteed that at least one black high school would be built in each of Georgia’s 159 counties. In urban areas, it was more common for freestanding high schools to be built whereas combination schools that housed all grades one through twelve were more frequent in rural towns. For example, Peter G. Appling High School in Macon housed only secondary grades, while schools such as Jasper County Training School and Eatonton’s Butler-Baker School served all school-age students. Additionally, rural districts would have elementary schools in outlying towns that eventually feed into combination schools. In Jasper County, black students from Shady Dale would attend Carrie Taylor Elementary and matriculate to Jasper County Training School upon reaching ninth grade. Similarly, in neighboring Jones County, elementary schools in Wayside and Haddock would feed into the combination school for the county, Califf High School.
Black equalization schools were usually built on land that had been donated in established black neighborhoods with the intent that they would double as community centers. In Monticello, it made sense that a new Jasper County Training School would be located in the Washington Park neighborhood, which had been the site of two previous schools that served students living in the city limits. Moreover, the neighborhood was a central hub for the black community that offered ample space for recreation.
On September 25, 1952, C.C. Catchings, Nannie Lee Jordan, and Lex Sanders each deeded land to the Jasper County Board of Education for “ten dollars and other valuable consideration.” Catchings donated the lion’s share of the land at 12 acres, while Jordan and Sanders donated 2 acres each. In many counties, new white schools were built to correspond to black equalization schools. Whereas land for black schools had to be donated, land for white schools was purchased from landowners by local boards of education. Almost seven months later on April 18, 1953, the Jasper County Board of Education purchased 45 acres of land from Ester Wilburn Barnes for $8,500 with the agreement from the Board that the new gymnasium be named for the Wilburn family.
What might appear as a raw deal for black landowners was a necessary sacrifice. Black students would have an opportunity to attend a school where they had a gymnasium, cafeteria, indoor restrooms, and other amenities not previously available. It was an acknowledgement of progress in moving from a school built with remains of a demolished white school to a modern facility. On May 23, 1955, property for both planned schools was turned over to the Georgia State School Building Authority for the construction to proceed.
THE “TWIN” SCHOOLS
In fear that the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education would end segregated schools, Governor Herman Talmadge declared, “Georgia is going to resist mixing the races if it is the sole state to do so.” In November 1954, five months after the Brown decision, Georgia residents voted for an amendment to the state constitution that would close public schools that attempted desegregation. This amendment would also grant vouchers to students who wanted to attend private schools, allow teachers to continue to be vested in the state retirement system if they chose to teach at private schools, and turn over property owned by the state to create new private schools. No longer public institutions nor under federal jurisdiction, private schools could deny the entry of black students whereas public schools could not lawfully do such. During the same election when the private school act was passed, Marvin Griffin captured the rural vote to become governor of Georgia. Griffin, upon entering office, trumpeted, “come hell or high water, races will not be mixed in Georgia’s schools.” With new equalization schools being built, Griffin’s declaration was an empty threat. Black parents in Georgia were in no hurry to send their children into harm’s way at a white school, especially if they were equipped with similar facilities.
On the ninth line of the cornerstone marker at Washington Park School, the name Bernard A. Webb, Jr. is listed as the architect of Jasper County Training School. According to his architectural credits, the Macon-based draftsman also designed Monticello High School, making Webb the missing piece that explains the structural resemblances between the two schools. If Monticello High School and Jasper County Training School were not identical, then they might have been better described as fraternal “twin” schools. If anyone could be credited as the person who birthed those schools, then it was Bernard Webb. The side-gabled roof design of both gymnasiums was common in Webb’s designs for high schools. He also applied the same design principle to Califf School and Jones County High School in nearby Gray. For black schools where recreation had been limited to outdoors, the gymnasiums provided basketball teams with indoor courts and an all-season facility for physical education classes. In addition to serving as athletic courts, these “gymnatoriums,” as they were called, were equipped with stages for banquets and performances.
Cornerstone marker at Washington Park School. Photo by Coddy Carter.
Below, the physical similarities pointed to at the beginning of the article can also be observed in early drawings of Jasper County Training School and Monticello High School. The first image, one of Jasper County Training School, shows the school plant prior to the building of an updated front office suite and library on the side of the school facing Martin Luther King Drive. The second drawing, which depicts Monticello High School, appeared on the inside of padded diploma covers as the school transitioned from Monticello High School to Jasper County Comprehensive High School and finally Jasper County High School until its relocation in 2007.
Jasper County Training School circa 1956. Image courtesy of 1992 J.C.T.S. Class Reunion.
Drawing of Monticello High School circa 1956.
MOVING TOWARD DESEGREGATION: THE 1960s
Between 1950 and 1960, Georgia officials spent eight times as much on building schools as Alabama and five times as much as Mississippi, which helped them avoid the levels of violence around school desegregation seen in the latter two states. All that changed when two black students from Atlanta, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes, attempted to desegregate the University of Georgia. The University of Georgia was unique from Georgia’s other universities in that it was the flagship institution and it was strongly to the Georgia political structure. The governor at the time, Ernest Vandiver, had received his law degree from there along with his predecessors Marvin Griffin and Herman Talmadge. On January 6, 1961, a federal court judge William Bootle ordered that the students be admitted to the university by issuing a permanent injunction that the state laws that threatened to close integrated schools could not be enforced. On that night, students on campus in Athens rioted, hanging a stuffed figure of Hamilton Holmes in effigy near the University of Georgia archway. It was a scene that mirrored a lynching that would have taken place in the early part of the century. Despite calls from the mayor and police chief in Athens to calm the riot, Governor Vandiver, an opponent of desegregation, did not send the Georgia State Patrol to relieve the police officers.
Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter entering the University of Georgia in 1961. Photo courtesy of Atlanta Journal-Consitution.
“Two, four, six, eight, we don’t want to integrate.” Students chanted those words as Hunter and Holmes walked through the campus to register for classes on Monday, January 9, 1961. By Tuesday, another portion had been added to the chant. “Two, four, six, eight, we don’t want to integrate. Eight, six, four two, we don’t want no jigaboo.” After Georgia’s basketball team lost to Georgia Tech that night, white students hurled rocks and bricks at the dormitory where Charlayne Hunter lived. Rioters had planned the event by instructing white students at the dormitory to turn off their lights after dark, making Hunter an easy target. Students also burned crosses near the tennis courts and track stadium and set fires near the wooded areas of campus. Another cross burning was attempted at the university president’s home, but authorities stopped the rioters. Under FBI questioning, students later admitted that they had conspired with unnamed Georgia politicians to perform the riot.
NAME CHANGES AND THE LAST DAYS OF BLACK HIGH SCHOOLS
After the building of equalization schools in the mid-1950s, there were not extensive efforts to desegregate schools in Georgia until Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlined that students could not be denied entry to schools with regard to race, color, religion, or national origin. Following the act, parents in Albany, Augusta, Columbus, Macon, and Savannah filed suits against their respective school districts. Desegregation in the context of those lawsuits was more an issue of gaining access to resources rather than interracial contact or preference for white schools. For instance, in the lawsuit against the school board in Augusta, a black student wanted to take a summer course in algebra at the white high school was not offered in the city’s black high school. Rural school districts enacted “freedom-of-choice” plans in compliance with the act. The common result of freedom-of-choice was that a few black students would choose to enter white schools while no white students chose to attend majority black schools. The consequences of freedom of choice reflected a social climate in which black schools were perceived to be inferior.
Around the mid-1960s as “freedom-of-choice” plans allowed black students to enter all-white schools, rural county training schools began dropping “county training school” from their titles and renaming them. In some counties, schools were renamed to denote the particular location of a school within the county. In other districts, schools were renamed for nationally recognized or local black leaders. In Washington, Georgia, for example, the black high school’s name had been changed from Wilkes County Training School to Washington Central School when the county’s black citizens deemed the distinction of a training school to be derogatory. It is not clear if that was the impetus for other name changes across the state, but other schools did follow suit. Lincoln County Training School changed its name to Westside-Lincolnton School, McDuffie County Training School became R. L. Norris School, and Macon County Training School was renamed D. F. Douglass School. By 1968, the name-change movement would reach Monticello as Jasper County Training School became Washington Park Elementary and High School. The name change was monumental as the school’s name denoted the neighborhood in which it was located and allowed the school to take on a distinct character. Washington Park School also indirectly carried the name of a black leader as Washington Park neighborhood had been named for Booker T. Washington when the area was chartered in 1908.
Days would be numbered for the newly named black schools as the movement toward rural desegregation reached its peak. Though history books point to the Brown v. Board ruling as setting the precedent for school desegregation, Green v. County School Board of New Kent (1968) was actually the catalyst for the desegregation of rural school districts. The decision in Green v. County School Board held that freedom-of-choice was inadequate for achieving desegregation, and segregated schools were economic burdens for rural school districts. In the three years of the freedom-of-choice program in New Kent County, Virginia, 115 black students had started attending white schools while no white students opted to attend the consolidated black schools. Furthermore, buses for black and white schools traveled overlapping routes, and students often traveled farther from home to attend a segregated school.
Relating the Supreme Court decision to Jasper County, consider a white high school student from Goolsby Road and a black student living on Midway Church Road in Shady Dale. The white student would have traveled a longer distance to attend Monticello High School when Jasper County Training School was closer. Likewise, his or her black counterpart from Shady Dale would be closer in distance to Monticello High School but be forced to attend Jasper County Training School. That line of thought led the U.S. Department of Justice to file a lawsuit against 81 Georgia school districts that included Jasper, Jones, Putnam, Morgan, Butts, Monroe, and Walton counties. The lawsuit held that federal funds would be withheld from school districts that did not make an effort to desegregate. Each of the 81 districts named in the 1969 lawsuit would desegregate by the 1970-71 school year.
The irony of rural desegregation was that equalization schools which had been built in the mid-1950s to prevent black and white students from attending schools together actually aided a method of school merging called integration by 1970. For example, Jasper County had an updated black consolidated school in Washington Elementary-High School that could be “integrated into” a new, single school system. With the exception of Hancock Central High School in Sparta and D. F. Douglass High School in Montezuma, most rural consolidated black schools built during the equalization period were converted to only house elementary or middle schools. Washington Park Elementary-High School came to be Washington Park Elementary, Butler-Baker High in Eatonton was converted into Butler-Baker Elementary, Pearl High emerged as Morgan County Middle School, and Califf High School in Gray eventually became the junior high school for Jones County.
INDIANS BECOME HURRICANES
In a community where black people once pieced together money through various fundraisers to build its own schools and donated land for a new school, change did not happen without some resistance. While parents were working, the students from Washington Park High School were on the front lines. Outside the view of media attention and history books, the high schoolers marched in protest of the court order that would send them to Monticello High School. It is unlikely that the students were protesting to preserve segregation or a segregated school. After all, their parents had been working alongside white co-workers for a number of years. It is more likely that they were fighting for a school culture that had been built almost 50 years earlier through the sacrifices of people in the community who had not had the privilege of public education. Those students were also fighting for the younger children who had grown up wanting to twirl batons in the marching band, lead cheers for basketball and football, put on black and gold helmets, or play varsity basketball at the Washington Park Gymnatorium. Eventually, protests could not outmatch the federal lawsuit against the district.
Washington Park High School Marching Band. Photo courtesy of Audrey Davis Stewart.
Sports played a prominent role in the story as desegregation resulted in the loss of school mascots across the South. In some cities, schools were closed completely. Though the Washington Park School would still be in use as an elementary school, the culture of varsity athletics would be lost and only retained by memory. The former Washington Park Indians would become Monticello Purple Hurricanes by the fall of 1970. Basketball players moved from the Washington Park Gymnatorium to Wilburn Gymnasium, and football players left Sanders Stadium for a new home stadium, Rose Bowl Field.
A number of arguments can be made about the fairness of integration in Jasper County. In most rural areas, where black residents were spread throughout counties, desegregation of schools was inevitable for economic reasons outlined by the federal courts. Washington Park was not alone in losing its varsity sports teams. Their old opponents from the surrounding schools met similar fates. The Butler-Baker Tigers became Putnam County War Eagles, Califf Hornets became Jones County Greyhounds, and Pearl Tigers became Morgan County Bulldogs.
Objectively, Monticello High School had a longer sports legacy than J.C.T.S/Washington Park High School, but even that has to be examined with a critical eye. Monticello Academy/High School, built in 1891, was established 30 years prior to Jasper County Training School. If the development of black public schools trailed white schools by 30 years in Jasper County, then sports behind lagged behind another two decades. The Monticello Purple Hurricanes played their inaugural season of football in 1926; Jasper County Training School played two recorded football games in 1932 and did not play again until 1960. By that time, Monticello had won back-to-back state football championships in 1955 and 1956. Speaking to the relative inequality of the time, girls’ and boys’ basketball teams at Jasper County Training School were still playing their home games on a dirt court until the winter of 1956.
According to the 1956 Redskin, the official yearbook of Jasper County Training School, basketball was the only organized sport. The 1955-56 school year was also the last year that students attended the original school plant on Mason Street. The girls’ and boys’ teams finished with records of 3-4 and 5-2, respectively. The girls posted two wins over Cousins High in Covington and also defeated Madison’s Pearl High. The boys’ team was particularly impressive, notching blowout wins of 25 points or more over Cousins, Pearl, and Butler-Baker. The boys’ only losses occurred in their last two games, an 11-point loss to Cousins and a four-point loss to Califf High School. They had beaten Cousins 67-41 in their second game of the season, and Califf, who beat them 52-48, was a non-district opponent. At the time, District VI-A included J.C.T.S., Butler-Baker, Pearl, Cousins, Wilkes County Training School, McDuffie County Training School, L.S. Ingraham in Sparta, Fair Street in Gainesville, and Blackwell Memorial School in Elberton. It was not documented in the yearbook whether they played in the state tournament, but judging by their record against district opponents, they might have been district champions. Though undocumented, the more likely scenario was that one of the teams that the J.C.T.S. boys did not play between Wilkes County, McDuffie County, and Fair Street also defeated Cousins High School and clinched the tiebreaker for the district championship.
Football was revived at the new Jasper County Training School in 1960 with Lex Sanders Stadium as the team’s home field. The 1960 Indians finished the season 0-3, losing to the Hubbard Tigers of Forsyth and Hancock Central twice. Even after J.C.T.S. established a football team that year, complete records only existed for the 1965, 1966, and 1969 seasons. In those respective seasons, they posted winning records of 4-1-1, 6-2, and 4-3. In 1965, their only loss was to the eventual district champion, R.L. Norris High School in Thomson. In 1966, they lost to Carver High in Monroe and Bruce Street High. Carver, a team J.C.T.S. had beaten in 1965, would go on to win the district championship three years in a row with a state championship in 1968. In their final season, two of their losses came to the co-district champions, Washington Central and R. L. Norris. Another loss came to F. B. Henderson in Jackson, a non-region opponent. During that same season, they posted blowout wins over Westside-Lincolnton and Corry in Greensboro. Westside-Lincolnton, who they defeated 34-6, would eventually consolidated with Lincolnton High School during integration to form the powerhouse Lincoln County. During the same period, Monticello Hurricanes football team amassed six region championships, including runs as state runner-ups in 1965 and 1966. Compared to Monticello, the J.C.T.S./Washington Park football teams were impressive, but never brought home any hardware in a district with tough competition. In retrospect, it seemed they were always one win away from a trophy.
J.C.T.S. Football Team circa 1960s. Image courtesy of Audrey Davis Stewart.
In the years following integration, basketball would become the dominant sport at the integrated Monticello High School as both boys’ and girls’ teams led the Hurricanes to the playoffs for the first time in the school’s history. The Lady Canes reached the playoffs in 1975, 1976, 1977, and 1979. They were defeated in the first round in both 1975 and 1976, but reached with Final Four in 1977 where they lost to eventual state champion Miller County by seven points. They ended the decade with another close loss to Miller County in the second round, who would go on to win another state championship. The boys’ team was defeated by Hogansville in the second round of the 1972 playoffs, missed the championship in 1973 by two points to Bacon County in 1973, and lost by five points to Waynesboro in 1974. By 1975, they would finally attain the state championship that had previously eluded them with a win over Montgomery County. The 1976 squad lost by two points to Lyons in the first round, and the 1979 season also saw a close loss when they lost by three points to Metter.
1976-77 Monticello High Girl’s Basketball Team. Reached the Georgia Class B Final Four. Photo courtesy of 1977 Monticello High School Yearbook.
1974-75 Monticello High Boy’s Basketball Team. Won the Georgia Class B State Championship. Photo courtesy of Audrey Davis Stewart.
Much like the J.C.T.S./Washington Park football teams of the 1960s, Monticello Hurricanes of the 1970s would be essentially one win away from a region crown in each of its winning seasons. In 1970, their only region loss was to Toccoa. Toccoa would go on to be region-runner up in an 8-7 loss to Rabun County, a team Monticello had defeated earlier in the season. In 1971, their only region loss would be to Oconee County, who would go on to defeat Duluth for the region championship. In 1978, they again had only one region loss, this time to Warren County, a team that would also go on to win the region championship.
Despite not attaining substantial team honors, the Monticello Purple Hurricanes did have their share of individual all-state selections. Though the awards paled in comparison to the accomplishments of players from the peak of the program’s success in the 1950s and 1960s, Monticello would not again produce as many all-state players in one decade until the 1990s. All-state players from 1970 through 1979 included Doug Huff (1970), Joe Hipp (1971), Glenn Carter (1972), Ulysses Norris (1974), Quintin Standifer (1977), Sherry Dudley (1978), Teddy Sauls (1978), and Steve Battle (1978) with Huff, Carter, Norris, Standifer, and Sauls receiving first-team recognition. Of the eight players who were all-state selections at Monticello High School, six of them were black players who had started school in the J.C.T.S./Washington Park system and two of them, Hipp and Carter, started their high school playing careers as Washington Park Indians.
1976 Monticello High Varsity Football Team. Photo courtesy of 1977 Monticello High School Yearbook.