The recent debate over the fate of the Claflin School in Columbus illustrates the hard economic choices we face when time and urban decay threaten to erase an historic landmark.
The Claflin School on 5th Avenue was the area's first public school built specifically for African American students, after the Civil War. It opened its doors in 1868 and burned down in 1958.
It was rebuilt, but the historic original building was lost forever and its 56-year-old replacement is an asbestos-ridden shell of its former self.
Generations of Claflin graduates want to see it saved because of its significance in their lives.
Columbus city manager Isaiah Hugley agreed to ask council to keep debate on the building's future open for another six months, but the handwriting seems to be on the crumbling walls.
It's tragic that such a meaningful piece of black history in Columbus is likely to be turned over to the federal government and eventually demolished rather than renovated.
Complicating matters is a deed restriction that the building must be used for education. Economics may not support saving the building, but here's an idea.
Perhaps the city, with help from community partners, can establish a Claflin memorial scholarship so that the legacy of what the building stood for can live on to inspire a new generation of black leaders to achieve success and create legacies of their own.
WTVM Editorial Committee
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Columbus, GA 31906
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