Separate and unequal: Preserving Jim Crow

Equalization schools were the South’s futile attempt to cling to Jim Crow segregation. They were built throughout Georgia, South Carolina, and other Deep South states as a last ditch effort to forestall court-ordered public school integration. According to Georgia architectural historian Steven Moffson, his state had the greatest number of schools built to preserve the separate but equal doctrine that ultimately was dismantled under the 1954 landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

Decatur’s Beacon Elementary and Trinity High schools were among the hundreds of equalization schools built in Georgia after World War II. They were constructed in 1955 and 1956 on the site where the city had maintained its African American school, the Herring Street School, since the early twentieth century. In early 2013, three years after receiving a $10,000 historic preservation grant that should have led to the property’s protection, the City of Decatur began demolishing parts of the two schools to build a new police headquarters and civic plaza. Continue reading

Historic Preservation Fund: Decatur report

Since 1970, the State and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices have received up to $46.9 million in annual matching grants through the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) to assist in expanding and accelerating their historic preservation activities.

Funding is used to pay part of the costs of staff salaries, surveys, comprehensive preservation studies, National Register nominations, educational materials, as well as architectural plans, historic structure reports, and engineering studies necessary to preserve historic properties.

The All HPF-assisted activities must meet standards set by the Secretary of the Interior, and at least 10 percent of the allocations to the States are subgranted to assist Certified Local Governments for locally based activities. — National Park Service

The Beacon elementary school (1955) and Trinity High School (1956) were built to replace the Herring Street School. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Wilson.In 2010 Decatur, Ga., received a $10,000 Historic Preservation Fund grant for historic preservation-related planning studies at the city’s former equalization schools, Beacon Elementary and Trinity High. The previous year, the City’s historic preservation consultants completed a citywide comprehensive historic resources survey and failed to mention the African American historic site (the survey did, however, include an inventory form for a building at 109 Waters Street with this note: “Number on building is 420 W Trinity, the police station”).

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