The 127-year-old ‘African School No. 4,’ in Chesterfield, Missouri, is in the process of being restored as the oldest surviving one-room schoolhouse for African Americans in the state.
Reverand Dr. Linda Settles, joined by many of her congregants, told the outlet, “To do something, like this, to bring people from all walks of life out to this park to do something like this, shows the power of what we can do when we unite.”
“Being a Black pastor at a white church in a predominantly white community, this has really helped me to find a connection with the community, and that’s what I’ve been so longing for,” she added.
“This is the oldest African American schoolhouse in Missouri, and it is important to keep its legacy of students and teachers alive for current and future generations to see and experience in person,” Mark Ohlendorf, President of the St. Louis County Parks Foundation said in a 2021 press release cited by KSDK-TV.
The St. Louis County Parks Foundation noted that the Missouri Constitution had already established a right to free education for all children, but an attendance rule required a 20-student minimum before a district was required to build a school. In the then-far-flung community, even after black families had enough children, the directors of the Chesterfield School District refused to build one.
The families took the district to court and won their case in 1893. The next year ‘African School No. 4,’ was constructed at the cost of $600, or approximately $20,791 in today’s dollars. The school would remain in service until the 1950s. The schoolhouse and surrounding property were later sold as reported by St. Louis Public Radio, and the schoolhouse was converted into a garage.
The St. Louis County Parks Department kept an eye on the property for 25 years until the last owner agreed to have them take it away.
Dora Frazier, 90, a former substitute teacher at the school said, “I remember walking up these little steps and through the front door, and a little desk up front, you know, waiting for the kids to come.”
Frazier was just 19 when she taught Eighth Grade in the single-room school