The first year we were on St Simons, I went on a trolley tour that included black heritage sites on the island. Because Fort Frederica is part of the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor, it was important for me to know about these sites. Gullah Geechee refers to the descendants of the slaves on the coastal islands from North Carolina to Florida. After the Civil War the former slaves settled on these islands and developed a unique African-American culture. The Historic Harrington School and Cultural Center is one of the better preserved sites in the corridor.
The Historic Harrington School began as a schoolhouse for the black children on St. Simons Island in the 1920’s. It was a one-room schoolhouse for children in grades 1 – 7. That was all the education that many of the black children received. If these students wanted to further their educations, they had to find a way to get to Risley School, the black high school in Brunswick. Harrington School was abandoned in 1968 and left to rot.
The St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition formed to preserve the school and other historic sites on the island in 2000. It took a while to raise the money needed to restore the school. It only opened to the public this year.
Today the Historic Harrington School has returned to its former glory. In fact, it probably looks better today than it ever did. Volunteers staff the school several days a week, inviting visitors to enter. The day we visited, we were greeted by Miss Rosalie who attended the school as a child. She told us some stories and answered my questions about desegregation. When I asked her why it took so long after Brown vs the Board of Education, she shook her head and said simply, “Honey chile, this here is southern Georgia!”
The Historic Harrington School is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 to 2 most of the year. From April 1 to Labor Day it is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10 to 2 from April 1 to Labor Day. It is open for special events by arrangement.