News: Historic Schoolhouse in Need of Restoration

Earliest African American School House Up For Sale in Smithfield, North Carolina

Built around 1869, local historians have found the school building was erected for educating local children and freedmen. Heirs to the home as well as educators and historians would like a private entity to preserve the building, and even have it moved to a nearby town park and African American cemetery.

The schoolhouse was one built by the Freedmen’s Bureau, an agency established in the last year of the Civil War. The Freedmen’s Bureau responsibilities and powers included assisting freedmen to reconnect with their families as well as help them to read and write. The original teacher of the schoolhouse was believed to be Ms. Adele Brewer. Ms. Brewer came from Connecticut when the school opened via the American Missionary Association to teach the freedmen as well as poor white students.

The school is considered most likely one of the earliest African American schoolhouses in the state and the country and, it could be Johnston County’s first ever integrated schools. The state of North Carolina took over the school in the 1870’s and it was in operation until 1913. It has since been used as a Baptist congregation meeting place. The physical building still retains some of its original features and needs work. There are not many, if any, Freedmen’s Bureau schoolhouses left in the state of North Carolina and interested parties are hoping a museum can be made of this building.

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