February 1, 2015 by DuboisOnMain
Sixty-one years ago today, the new DuBois High School built in the Turkey Knob section of Mount Hope opened its doors for classes. It replaced the old, poorly equipped one on the hill in Macdonald that was destroyed four years earlier in 1950. DuBois was one of only two schools in Fayette County for Negro (the accepted name for black or African American) high school students living in the Plateau area. That area consisted of the many coal towns from Concho across the county to the area of Prince resulting in long bus rides for most students. As a result, these families knew and grew up with generations of members from a large area.
DuBois had a reputation of producing excellent students and championship football teams. This was known nationally as the journalism teacher was also a writer for the Pittsburgh Courier which printed news about Negroes in the surrounding area. The DuBois Echo served as a school newspaper and a source of local society type news of area Negroes which was not printed by white owned newspapers. It is often forgotten that the junior high school was destroyed also, displacing these young seventh and eighth grade students.
From 1950 to 1954, these students had been receiving their education in a variety of buildings in Mount Hope. Two churches, First Baptist and First Union Baptist served as classrooms and office space. Additional space was provided by temporary buildings erected on property on the corner of Main and S. Fayette St. belonging to the Dorado family. The band building was located on Mound Street. Storefront property on Main Street served as classroom space and a location for inquisitive elementary students to peer in, wondering why kids were sitting at desks in a store.
Prior to the opening of the new high school, an open house showing off the new building with its very best equipment and everything took place over the weekend. The local newspaper touted ads from the various suppliers of fixtures, flooring, lighting and anything that could be written about to prove this school had the very best there was to offer. The large ads often took up at least half of each page along with articles of praise about how this school came about.
The existence of this brand new modern school ceased in 1956 when DuBois High was integrated and immediately renamed Mount Hope High School. Evidence of its rich history was wiped out and replaced with a new and different face. The plaque built into the was was covered with a huge trophy case. Many who attended school there never knew this history.
During the past year or so, I was surprised to learn that there are two generations that did not know the history of WV. They were shocked and surprised to learn what they have been shown during Black History Month also represented similar conditions here. We, in fact, were a segregated state! The Negro (black, African American) population represented a small percentage of the total population in WV and it was in the 60’s that people started the non-violent fight for equality.
Fayette County had an integration plan since 1956 when the newest high school in the county was taken over in the name of integration. It was said to be following the law. As a 17 year old senior, I had left WV thinking our schools were integrated when DuBois was. How wrong I was. A few years ago, I was given a copy of the county school integration plan by a former white classmate who had worked at the board of education in Charleston. Her comment to me was, “Jean, they wanted your school.” Someday, I will exhibit the plan.
In honor of the 1954-1956 students, a new exhibit showing student pictures and football programs donated to the museum by Betty Sims Brown, former student, who lives in Columbia MD, is on display. On the wall above these pictures is the plaque, DuBois High School. If you are interested, come visit. Call first to ensure I’m open.