Historic African American school in jeopardy of being torn down - CBS46 News

Historic African American school in jeopardy of being torn down

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(Source: WGCL) (Source: WGCL)

Several Gwinnett County residents fear one of the most historic schools in their community could be torn down and redeveloped.

The history of Hooper-Renwick dates back to the days of segregation when it was the only school for African Americans in the county.

Johnny Smith attended the school and has fond memories of his time there.

“The first class was in 1948 and graduated with four students,” Smith said.

Greg Lott said the school was sold to the city of Lawrenceville recently and now he fears this piece of history will be thrown away as a part of a plan to redevelop the area.

“If you were black and lived in Gwinnett County, you were bused in here to go to school,” Lott said.  “We had a lot to do with [helping to build] this county and now this little bit of history we do have, they want to tear it down and build a park.”

Donna McLeod is leading an effort to save Hooper-Renwick and turn it into a historical and cultural center.

“This is worth preserving,” McLeod said. “History must be preserved because if you don’t know your history you’re doomed to repeat everything you’ve done in the past,” McLeod said.

The city of Lawrenceville issued the following statement in response to the concerns from the community.

“The City of Lawrenceville appreciates the rich history of the African American community in our town.  The Hooper-Renwick School’s memory represents a distinctive moment in that history that cannot and should not be forgotten.

The City purchased the vacant Gwinnett County Public School facility and bus parking lot to provide a catalyst for redevelopment in the immediate downtown area. The City recognizes the significant historical impact of the Hooper-Renwick community and with any redevelopment of the site, we are committed to commemorating this unique and important past as we move forward together to embrace a progressive and unified vision. 

We look forward to working with the entire community including graduates, teachers, and residents to ensure the legacy of Hooper-Renwick is preserved for generations to come.”

Smith can only hope that means keeping at least some of the school intact.

“What we want to do is make it blend in with what the city has planned,” Smith said.

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