Columbus discusses future of first public school for blacks

Columbus discusses future of first public school for blacks

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - It was one last plea to save a historic building in Columbus. City council members invited the public to a forum in hopes of determining the future of the Claflin School Building.

The city wants to turn the building back over to the federal government, saying it's too expensive to restore, but residents say it's the city's responsibility to preserve and restore this piece of history.

"In my opinion, this is one of the most important projects that Columbus could be involved in and do -- other than restoring the Historic Liberty District," explains Reverend Richard Jessie.

These shattered windows and boarded walls are all that remain of what used to be the Claflin School building. Started in the 1800s, the school served as the first public school for blacks in the Muscogee County School District. It's A fond memory for Reverend Richard Jessie.

Jessie adds, "I went to elementary school here. So, from here through the 6th grade, this is where I got my early education. And not only for me, but many other blacks in this community. This was post Brown versus the Board of Education."

The property was turned over to the city of Columbus in 2013 and later determined to be a pricey recovery. One that boasts an estimated cost in the millions to rid the building of asbestos and other issues. But Reverend Curtis Crocker, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church just down from the building, tells us the restoration is a worthy investment.

He says "at the end of the day, I believe that something can be done if we really wanted it to happen."

The building is a stop on the Columbus Black Heritage Trail, but not listed of the historic registry according to City Manager, Isaiah Hugley. The original building was burned, then rebuilt in1958. Because of this, Hugley says the property is a historic landmark and *not* the current building.

Jessie pleads "if this building is not on the historic registry, it should be. Period."

Bringing city leaders and the community to council chambers to discuss whether the city will turn the building over to the federal government or if the community will rally behind the city and help preserve this piece of history.

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