Historic School Preservation

In 1954, the old 33rd Avenue High School opened as the only black high school in Gulfport. Shortly after, it closed because of school integration. Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the building. Today it remains in the same damaged condition but a group of alumni are looking to see their history preserved.
At night, the former 33rd Avenue High School is an eerie sight with busted windows and keep-out signs all around. It’s hard to imagine that in 1954, the building was the only black school in Gulfport, a school that educated many Coast legends. “We have well-known opera singer, football players that’s gone into the Hall of Fame, we have a doctor that’s discovered another bone in the ear. We have so many people out of that school that have been very productive,” said 33rd Avenue High alumni Ruthie Thaggart-White.
After the school closed in 1969, the building housed various programs like Head Start and Job Corps. When Hurricane Katrina shook the Coast, the building was left desolate. Now, ten years later, not much has changed. 33rd Avenue High alumni Glenn Cobb said, “That’s just unbelievable that you would allow a building like that, a tradition, a legacy like that, to just deteriorate into a position that it’s in today and it breaks my heart to see it.”
Nearly five years ago, 33rd Avenue High alumni feared the U.S. Department of Labor would demolish the building and eradicate one of the few remaining physical symbols of the struggles of gaining education as a black student. “If you take that away from us, what will there be in the city to even say that blacks even went to school,” said President of the Alumni Association Jimmie Woullard.
Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Kenneth P’pool says under the National Historic Preservation Act bulldozing the school without recognizing the historic value is against federal law. “It represents landmarks in African American educational facilities that are among the oldest on the Gulf Coast and certainly deserves to be preserved because of that.”
The Department of Labor is required to consult with the community and the Department of Archives and History to determine what will happen to the school next.

Categories: Local News, News

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