Columbia’s still-standing school built for African-American students

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Columbia’s still-standing school built for African-American students

In honor of Black History Month we thought a cool local history lesson was in order.

The Pine Grove Rosenwald School – still standing today and located at 938 Piney Woods Rd. in Columbia – was a two-room schoolhouse built in 1923 for local African-American students in the area, well into the period of “separate but equal.” It was one of ~5,000 schools built across the rural South for black students.

“Rosenwald Schools ” as they were called, were built from 1917-1932, funded by the Julius Rosenwald Foundation. At the time, Julius Rosenwald was the president of Sears and Roebuck. He helped build 500 of these schools just in South Carolina (15 of which were in Richland County).

Here are a few “by the numbers” facts about the school:

$2,500 | Total cost to build the school – mostly money raised by parents at bake sales and cakewalks, along with some fund from the State
$700 | Amount provided for building assistance via the Julius Rosenwald Foundation grant
1953 | When the school closed (probably due to the sales tax issued by Governor Byrnes)
1960’s | Heating and cooling unit was added to the building.
$37,500 | Approximate value of what the school would have cost to build today

And a few facts about what was going on during this time:

○ 1947-1950 – The first effort to challenge “separate but equal” education began in Clarendon County, which resulted in the Briggs v. Elliott case.
○ 1951 – A $0.03 sales tax was issued by S.C. Governor James Byrnes in an attempt to improve African-American schools and prevent desegregation.
○ May 17, 1954 – The Brown v. Board of Education ruling was made which deemed segregated schools unconstitutional.
○ September 1970 – 21 S.C. school districts were ordered to desegregate.

The Pine Grove School today:

After the Pine Grove School closed in the 1950s, it was converted into a community center in the 1960s – and underwent major renovations. As a community center, it became host to Saturday night fish fries, Halloween parties + more. However, in 2006 – after it’s earlier significance was realized – efforts were made to restore the school to its 1923 state were made by the Richland County Recreation Commission and the National Trust. Pine Grove School is now a registered historical landmark and is the last Rosenwald School still standing in the county. Today, it’s a museum filled with authentic antiques.

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