Asheboro Colored Graded School

At the southwest corner of Central School, now known as “East Side Homes,” is a marble stone which predates the 1926 construction of Asheboro’s oldest existing African-American school.

The reuse of “Ashboro/ Colored Graded School/ 1911” marked not only the community’s joy in the new school, but its pride in its first. The stone was actually re-installed as the cornerstone of the 1926 building in a ceremony conducted by Zacharias Franks and other members of the Odd Fellows fraternal order. Mr. Franks was a brick mason and one of the first residents of “Moffitt Heights,” where Frank Street continues to bear a shortened version of his name.

Before the Civil War, education of black children was specifically prohibited by state law, but the Constitution of 1868 mandated free schools for all children between ages 6 to 21. Even before that time, Freedmen’s Schools were conducted in several places in the county, such as Middleton Academy between Cedar Falls and Franklinville.

It’s presently unclear what kind of serious funding black education received in Randolph County in the late 19th century. The only real reference to the subject is in Sidney Swaim Robins’ 1972 autobiography “Sketches of My Asheboro,” where he recounts his family’s friendship with William Ernest Mead. Mead, a native of Brooklyn, New York, was hired to serve as the principal of the black school in Asheboro. Mead, only 20 years old, arrived around 1882 to teach and run the school “as a sort of Quaker missionary” (p. 25).

According to Robins, the school was located on ” the Oaky Mountain Road… after you started down the red lane from the old courthouse [intersection of Salisbury and Main streets], crossed the wet weather brook on a low plant-bridge, and passed the Colored schoolhouse half way up the first rise to where the lane leveled off” (p. 44). Robins left Asheboro for Harvard in 1900, so his memory considerably predates the 1911 date on the preserved cornerstone date. The exact location of the school is shown on part of a map for “Beechwood” subdivision, developed in 1936. Lots 1 through 5 fronting on Brookside Drive include part of the school grounds; a later hand has drawn the outline of a building facing Old North Main Street just north of lots 1 and 2, on adjoining property labeled “School Lot” (see Plat Book 1, Page 289). So the site of the school can be found approximately at the present location of 309- 310 North Main Street.

The “Colored Graded School” was a public school established under the school improvement movement pushed by Governor Charles B. Aycock. The “Asheboro Graded School Trustees” in 1909 built a grand brick Graded School for white students on the old Male Academy lot on South Fayetteville Street (later named Fayetteville Street School), then in 1911 the four-room frame school on old North Main Street that older residents still remember.

Ruth McCrae, a long-time teacher in the Asheboro City School system, was a student in the 1911 school. She told historian Tom Hanchett, who prepared the nomination of Central School to the National Register of Historic Places, that “One the January day when the building was completed, students from the old Asheboro Colored School on Greensboro Road marched triumphantly down the hill to the new facility, each carrying a chair from the old building” (NR nomination, p. 5). McCraw also vividly recalled “we weren’t out of that building but three months—March—when the wind blew that school down! Just completely flattened it! There was nothing standing!”

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7 Responses to “Asheboro Colored Graded School”

  1. helen hayes Says:

    Why is there no reference to Randolph county training school, this is the school my parents attended. Where did this name oringinate from? This
    is also the school Mrs.Ruth Mc Crae graduated from.

    • macwhatley Says:

      I haven’t yet written about the Training School/ Central School, except for the historic landmarks commission.
      I wrote about this school because it had never been written about before.

  2. Sammie Spencer Says:

    My mother attended the Colored Graded school from 1936-1942, before being given away to another strange family for servitude in another adjoining county. are there any old recoeds from the school?? please reply:

    • macwhatley Says:

      I have never seen any records but it is possible that the Asheboro City Schools may have them.
      I think they took most of the records for the Central High School after consolidation of the black and white school systems.
      The old Central School is on the National Register of historic Places and has been converted into elderly folks housing.
      It’s possible that someone there may know more, or Mrs. Addie Luther, who runs the related Eastside Improvement Association.

  3. Sammie Spencer-Duff Says:

    Thank you for being so generous about answering my question:I am the family historian for the Duff & Martin Lineage of York County SC, Gaston CountyNC and surrounding Counties, including Guilford County and the surrounding counties.If you have any more available information please send it to Sammie Spencer-Duff at the email below

  4. Tess Parker Says:

    Can you tell me where I can find any information on the 1965-66 integration of Ramseur School?

    • macwhatley Says:

      Contact the Randolph Room at the Asheboro/ Randolph County Public Library, 201 Worth St., Asheboro, NC 27203. Marsha Haithcock, who is the reference librarian there, may know something. The library number is 336-318-6800.

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