It sits against a rural canvas of green fields and unkempt woods that line US 158. At first glance you think this tidy white structure is one of the many houses of worship that dot the North Carolina countryside. But as I was driving toward the Outer Banks, taking various snapshots along the way for my monthly “Through the Lens” feature– which airs on The Hampton Roads Show, I did a double-take when I saw this wooden structure sitting on bricks over what appeared to be freshly raked dirt. I turned my car around, and sped back to this gleaming wood building, and noticed a sign laying by the building laced with freshly turned earth. It read: “Help Us Restore the Old Jarvisburg Colored School 1867-1950″
I walked around the simple building in awe of the history that must have passed through these plain double doors. It was the center of learning for African American students for more than 80 years–one of five “colored” schools in Currituck County until they consolidated in 1950. The buildings were then sold off by the county. Finally in 1966, the Currituck County School Board approved the Freedom on Choice School Plan following the 1964 Civil Right’s Act. This began the consolidation of schools into an integrated system.
These pictures were my favorite on this most recent “Through the Lens” odessey. Currituck County Comissioner Paul O’Neal says the county has already put more than $500,000 toward its renovation, but the job is not quite finished, “we’ re going to to have the rest of the building restored and opened as a museum. We have about $200,000 committed to finishing the interior.” Though this project has faced some delays in recent years, O’Neal hopes to have the museum opened by the end of this year.
The restoration project began in 1998 when alumni began efforts to save the school. Peggy Birkemeier, senior regional associate for North Carolina Community Foundation says it still has to raise about $30,000 to furnish the museum, which she says “will show historical information about all five schools from the Civil War to desegregation.” You can find more information about the Jarvisburg Colored School here: http://www.historicjarvisburgcoloredschool.com/history.shtml.