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Monday August 8th

Elementary 11 site remembered for all-black school history

The cornerstone from the Orange County Training School was found in a storage facility earlier this week.  Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools will celebrate the return of the cornerstone with an alumni gathering.
Buy Photos The cornerstone from the Orange County Training School was found in a storage facility earlier this week. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools will celebrate the return of the cornerstone with an alumni gathering.

Esther McCauley remembers walking past a cornerstone at the entrance of the principal’s office each day while attending Lincoln High School from 1949 to 1952.

The cornerstone was laid during the construction of the Orange County Training School in 1924 and served as a reminder of the school’s history for several decades.

And as Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools prepares for Elementary 11 — set to open by August 2013 on the site of the Orange County Training School and several successive, all-black schools — the district is using the stone as a way to honor the site’s history.

In honor of its return, the school district has invited alumni from the schools to meet Thursday at the Northside site between McMasters and Caldwell streets.

The Orange County Training School was converted to Lincoln High School in 1948 and later Northside Elementary School in 1951.

The Orange County Training School was first opened as a Rosenwald School.

Rosenwald Schools were opened in African-American neighborhoods in the South using seed money donated by Julius Rosenwald, a president of Sears, Roebuck and Co. He contributed to 787 schools in North Carolina alone.

McCauley said in a time when schools were segregated, the black community rallied around the successive schools, and they became the focal point of the neighborhood.

Rev. Robert Campbell, the president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, attended Northside Elementary — the last school on the site — starting in 1954.

“It was like going to school with family,” he said. “Most of the teachers lived in my community or in the surrounding community around Northside.”

Campbell said having teachers as neighbors made it difficult to get away with misbehaving.

“Your parents always knew if you were in trouble or whether you had homework or not,” he said.

A group of alumni, including McCauley, first requested that the school district hold a reunion to celebrate the cornerstone’s return.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the cornerstone again,” McCauley said. “And I’m looking forward to the people who were my friends and classmates, and the alumni and members of the community.”

Stephanie Knott, spokeswoman for the school district, said the district is hoping to honor the site’s history at the new elementary school by creating a display of historical artifacts and incorporating alumni in future events.

They do not yet know if the stone will be displayed, but Knott said she imagines it will.

“They’re very sentimental about their alma mater and are looking forward to celebrating the past and making way for this beautiful new school in the future,” she said.

Contact the City Editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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