Training school named to historic register

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 27, 2004

The first school for blacks in Nansemond County was named to the National Register of Historic Places this week.

Nansemond County Training School was one of 16 historic sites in Virginia included on the federal registry Wednesday. Earlier this year, it was named to the Virginia Landmarks Register, a prerequisite for the federal recognition.

The training school was one of about 5,000 Rosenwald schools in the country. A vice president of Sears during the 1800s, Julius Rosenwald funded the construction of schools for blacks, mostly in southern states, from 1917 to 1932.

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Located on Southwestern Boulevard, next to Southwestern Elementary School, the two-story training school was built in 1924. Its first class of six students graduated in 1931.

Enoch Copeland, a 1953 graduate, is part of a group of residents that has spent the past three years working to get the historic designation approved. That, in turn, should make it easier for the group to get grants to restore structure.

&uot;We are hoping we can preserve the building, and turn it into a museum, with at least one room reminiscent of when the school was in existence,&uot; Copeland said.

The group also wants to use part of the building as a community center for residents of the rural southwestern Suffolk area.

His wife, Jean Copeland, a member of the 1958 class, believes it important to preserve the building where so many people graduated and went on successful careers.

&uot;It’s our history, our heritage,&uot; she said.