Public Education in the State of Florida was mandated in the 1868 State Constitution. Article VIII, Section 1 states: It is the paramount duty of the State to make ample provision for the education of all the children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference.
From Miles Kenan Womack, Jr. book published in 1976, Gadsden, A Florida County in Word and Picture, we find that modern education in Gadsden County had its birth on September 18, 1869. A meeting was called by The Reverend W. H. Crane, the County School Superintendent. The board realized that the education of approximately 2,500 or more white and black children rested on their shoulders. After several meetings of the newly formed Board of Public Instruction, 33 schools were organized. Over the next few years, the 1869 list was modified with some schools deleted and others added.
Many black and white children were educated together on the farm where they lived and worked. Landowners supplied a building that was used both as a school and often a church. Each family paid approximately $15.00 a year for a student to attend the school.
In 1885, Florida's Constitution (Article XII, Section 12) stated that, "white and colored children shall not be taught in the same school." By 1895 this Article was modified to read that it was "a penal offense for any persons to conduct any school, any grade, either public or private where whites and blacks are instructed or boarded in the same building or taught in the same class by the same teachers. Penalty: Between $150 and $500 fine, or imprisonment in the county jail between three and six months."
Florida schools would remain segregated until 1968 when Article XII of the Florida Constitution was modified, and the Gadsden County School Board would fully integrate and consolidate the entire school district once again.
Our GOAL is to locate these early rural public schools of Gadsden County.
Over the years the location many of these segregated schools has been lost. West Gadsden Historical Society's Melissa Herring, Head of the Board of Directors, is spearheading the project of collecting the information of the rural public schools of Gadsden County. With extensive research, she has generated an initial list of over 100 schools. Our goal is to identify the exact location of these schools, and then to work with the property owner to erect an historical sign. Concurrently, we will be developing this web page where the collected information can be shared about each school. This may include maps, photos, school staff, personal narrative stories, and descriptions. As we all know, if the information is not documented, it becomes lost to the future.
This webpage will be updated as information is gathered.
You can help in several ways.
The first documented mention by the Gadsden County Board of Public Instruction of Salem Church/School is found in Miles Womack’s, Gadsden, A Florida County in Word and Picture, published in 1976. 1880 Second Re-organization –Sycamore- No. 23 – (40 students). Trustees: J. J. Rowan, J. R. Johnson, J. M. Smith, Daniel Tolar, W. C. Wilson. Teacher: Isabella S. Wilson.
The community of Sycamore was established in the early 1820's, when a group of Scottish immigrants traveled from North Carolina to the newly established Territory of Florida. Headed further south, the party liked this area - water was available from two springs, game was plentiful and the range was adequate for a herd of cattle. Here the Randall Johnson party established Sycamore.
In 1853 a Methodist Church was established for circuit riders to hold services, and the building also served as a school. This original log structure was adjacent to the area of Sycamore Cemetery 3246 Sycamore Road.
Several school houses were established throughout the years to serve the growing Sycamore community. Dates of operation of these schools are unknown.
From Memoirs of William G. Fletcher (his memories of Sycamore and the Aspalaga Road)
.........near Morgan Pond, Morgan school house was a little log cabin school where Henry Marlow and Henry Shepard taught school a few months every year. I recall that a many by the name of Cole and another, Mr. Gibson, also served there as teachers. (note: Morgan Pond was located near the intersection of Little Sycamore Road and Sycamore Rd.)
........Half way between the Whittle and Davis places on the left of the road was a frame school house that took the place of the Morgan school house. The First teacher in the new building was Mr. Brock, a New Englander, among those who first began to be lured to Florida by reports of its being a sort of Paradise regained.
Lastly, constructed in the 1920's was the school at Little Sycamore Church, 765 Little Sycamore Road. This building served students grades 1 - 8 until it was consolidated with Greensboro School in 1943. It is unknown why the Public Board of Instruction did not recognize these schools as a public school until 1880.
The building was remodeled and Little Sycamore Church moved into the facility where it continues as a Methodist Church today.
The first documented mention by the Gadsden County Board of Public Instruction of Salem Church/School is found in Miles Womack’s, Gadsden, A Florida County in Word and Picture, published in 1976. 1880 Second Re-organization of Public Schools - Salem Church/School - No. 30 - (30 Students). Trustees: George Hopkins, James Ragster, Ben Thomas, Clayborn (sic.), L. B. Johnson. Teachers: W. T. Scott, J. G. Gunn.
A search of early church records indicates the Salem AME Church may have existed as early as 1852. The exact location is not documented; however, oral tradition is that the church/school building and cemetery were located between present-day Carl Pitts Road and Sycamore Rd. Once Greensboro was established in 1907, a new church/school building was erected within the city limits to better serve the congregation.
Salem School located at the corner of Sycamore Rd and Lonnie Clark Rd was built in the 1930’s; funded by the Rosenwald School Program and constructed by the congregation of the Salem AME Church. Rosenwald Schools were part of a huge project that provided funding for more than 5,000 schools, shops, and teacher homes in the southern United States for the education of African-American children during the early 20th century. The program was the product of the partnership of Julius Rosenwald, who became part-owner and president of Sears, Roebuck and Company and Booker T. Washinton, then president of the Tuskegee Institute, educator and philanthropist. Salem School served the African American community until racial segregation ended and the Gadsden County School Board consolidated the public school system in 1970.
In 1972 after the building was altered, renovated and additional buildings constructed, Salem School was reopened as the first Greensboro Elementary. Mr. Robert West and family currently own the site where they plan to offer services to the community. Open Word Worship Center, a Florida 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, was born in the heart of and founded by the late Elder Robert Dexter West in 2007. A Southern Baptist affiliate ministry within the Baptist General Association of Virginia, their primary focus is passionately illustrated by their late founder - winning of souls to Christ. The foundation scripture is Matthew 28:19-20. Open Word Worship Center’s scope of operation has an intended span from the local area of Greensboro, Florida, to international communities of the world. This desire is demonstrated through partnering with other ministries to participate in foreign missions and other humanitarian causes. Because of love and concern for the people within the local community, Open Word Worship Center is committed to using its faculties as resources to help build a better community for current and future generations. This commitment includes a vision with structured plans for an onsite training facility for ministries and teachers of the Gospel, a plan of action for physical wellness programs to include periodic health screenings, an enrichment center for the elderly, and a setting for summer enrichment activities and vacation Bible experiences. The buildings were severely damaged by Hurricane Michael in 2018, and reconstruction has been slowed awaiting FEMA funding.
Salem AME Church, 205 Kemp Street, Greensboro, FL 32330, continues as a cornerstone of faith for the community.