by Ashley Wynn-
Southwest Virginia provides a strong history for the African American community, and in efforts to preserve and educate individuals, T.G. Howard Community Center in Christiansburg is partnering alongside many historic sites to repurpose them into museums and learning facilities to lend a helping hand in educating the next generation.
“There is a strong history in Southwest Virginia for my community and with the help of many people we have the ability to restore that and save it for future generations,” stated Guy Smith, the Executive Director of T.G. Howard Community Center.
In 1867 the Freedmen’s Bureau began educating African Americans who were recently free from enslavement in Wytheville. The Evansham School District and Franklin Street Methodist Episcopal Church worked together to purchase the Freedmen’s School in 1882, in hopes of adding to the structure to create a building that would become a secondary school education for African American students in the late 1940s. The Wytheville Training School served the educational needs of students from Wythe, Bland, Carroll and Grayson Counties. The school closed in 1951, a few years after its opening, to take on another purpose: a memorial to Professor Richard Henry Scott, Jr., one of the first black educators in the region. The building has now been repurposed into a museum and culture center displaying its deep and impactful history.
From 1894 to 1996 Pulaski County educated African Americans at The Calfee Training School which operated as a community center and place of education. While the school was open it struggled to stay afloat with underfunding from Jim Crow segregation. Now, the building is currently under construction to become a childcare center and museum with the help of over three million dollars in grants and fundraising. The museum’s vision is to inspire the next generation and to display the history of the fight for equal education opportunities.
The Edgar A. Long Building was built in 1927 on the Christiansburg Industrial Institute campus. The building was built to honor Edgar Allen Long, a first-generation African American born free in the United States. Long was the principal at the Institute from 1906-1924, and he also served as president of the State Teachers Association and School Improvement League in 1911. The building is under renovation and is a standing reminder of the significant role the school played in the lives of African Americans. Historic preservations have been underway to reopen this Virginia Landmark as a reminder of its great and impactful history.
With the help of donations and support these organizations will continue to restore these buildings and others within the area.