Jones – Organizations

Laurel Colored Schools

There were four schools for the black children in Laurel known as the Laurel Colored Schools: Kingston/Nora Davis, Sandy Gavin, Southside Elementary and Oak Park High School. The children and teachers would walk to school along the two-mile long sidewalk of Maple Street.

Sandy Gavin was Laurel’s first black school to be built of brick and was a source of pride for the community. “It’s (sic) grounds covered an entire block between South Fifth and South Sixth Avenues and Madison and Monroe Streets.” In the early 1920s, upon learning that Laurel spent approximately one third of the amount to educate black children as it did white children, Laurel socialite and philanthropist Mrs. George S. Gardiner made a proposal to donate $10,000 for the building of a Negro school if the black community would raise $10,000 and the City of Laurel would contribute $10,000. The purpose of the proposal was to mobilize the black community and shame the city into acting more responsibly. By 1924 the community had raised the money and the school opened in 1925. The building is no longer used.

Laurel Leader-Call

The first weekly newspaper in Laurel, the Laurel Chronicle, was founded by Wallace Rogers in 1897. Beginning in 1897, the paper published a column, “Progressive Colored Citizens,”serving as the first white-owned newspaper in the state to positively highlight the contributions of African-Americans to the community.

In 1954, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, while most newspapers in the state predicted violence, the Laurel Leader-Call presented a more positive outlook. It stated “We are going to make history in Mississippi. We are going to be an example to the world. Even temper must prevail . . . the solution to the problems must be worked out in the spirit of Americanism and true Christianity.”

Sources:

Payne, Cleveland. The Oak Park Story: A Cultural History, 1928-1970. (1988) National Oak Park High School Alumni Association and laurel Remembrances by Cleveland Payne (1996).