Alumni to film documentary about former school

Published 8:30 pm Saturday, September 21, 2013

Alumni of Nansemond County Training School and Southwestern High School have always known their school was special, but now they will have a documentary to prove it.

Former students and teachers are invited to a reunion day Sept. 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Mount Sinai Baptist Church, 6100 Holy Neck Road. Visitors are asked to bring yearbooks, photos, certificates, diplomas and other items related to their time at the school to be scanned for the documentary, and participants also can choose to be interviewed by the documentary team about their school experience.

Nansemond County Training School was a Rosenwald school, built with funding from the Julius Rosenwald Fund, which provided seed money for safe schools where black children could learn. Thousands of Rosenwald schools were built throughout the rural South from 1917 to 1932.

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Nansemond County Training School was built in 1924 with $1,500 from the Rosenwald Fund. Like all Rosenwald schools, it required community investment as well: local black families contributed $5,000, and $11,500 in public money was given for its construction. Consisting of seven classrooms and one auditorium, it contained both an elementary and a secondary school.

The name of the Nansemond County Training School was changed to Southwestern High School in 1964. Soon after, the racial integration of county schools came, and it became Southwestern Intermediate School. A new building was built beside it that now serves as Southwestern Elementary School.

“We’re just trying to preserve the past,” said school graduate Wardell Baker, who noted that when the new Pioneer Elementary School opens, there will be no more school in Suffolk called Southwestern.

Barn Films of Como, N.C., is in charge of the documentary production. Their film entitled “Children Go Where I Send You: The Story of Rosenwald Schools in Hertford County, N.C.” will be screened at the event so participants can get an idea of what the Nansemond County Training School film will be like.

The screening will be the first event next Saturday, followed by a complimentary lunch and then document scanning and interviews.

Baker said three interview rooms will be in operation at the same time in an effort to get most of the interviewing done on Saturday.

“You don’t have to be interviewed if you don’t want to be, but at least we want to put them in the group picture,” he said. “We’re going to take one big picture of the whole group.”

The completed film will be screened at film festivals and be aired on public television, organizers say.

To RSVP or for more information, call J. Harold Faulk at 647-9313 or Charlton Flood at 986-3229.