Historical program to be presented Thursday at Tryon Elementary School

Published 10:25 am Monday, July 25, 2022

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Nobody alive is left to remember what the five Rosenwald school buildings looked like, built in Polk County during the 1920s for black education, and no photos of them are known to survive. 

The five-classroom Tryon Colored School burned down in 1940, replaced by brick Embury School in 1941. Four smaller rural Rosenwald schools in the countryside, for black communities in Polk County, were replaced by consolidated Cobb Elementary in Green Creek in 1951.


Dr. Thomas Hanchett, community historian, an expert on the story of Rosenwald school buildings, will visit from Charlotte on Thursday, July 28. His illustrated talk will illuminate the fascinating history of how North Carolina built more Rosenwald schools for black education than any other state. These well-designed, up-to-date buildings enabled a new spirit of black public education in the segregated South a century ago. 


In addition, a new 25-minute video about our state’s Rosenwald schools, by Longleaf Productions in Greensboro, will be shown for the first time publicly.


Sponsored by Tryon History Museum, Hanchett’s special program will take place at historic Tryon Elementary School, built in 1923 for white students. Its original auditorium, the largest ever built in Polk County at that time, still exists and has been upgraded recently by the county school system. The audience will attend in air-conditioned comfort, in raked-floor seating, to watch projection from the stage and hear from new sound equipment. 


The enlarged school still displays four original, impressive white pillars out front, facing Trade Street from atop a hill.


Access to school parking is up School Street, beyond Forbes Preschool, or from Harrel Place off Highway 176, north of the Nina Simone mural. The program begins at 5 p.m. Any nearby parking may be used, and volunteers will help direct traffic dropping off attendees near the building entrance. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. and seating is limited; no standing room will be permitted per safety codes, but the program will be video-recorded and available later for viewing online. The event is free and open to the public, and all are welcome.


Submitted by Mike McCue