Central High School Honored Brick by Brick
Oxford, Mississippi (July 3, 2019) — Last week, the Oxford School District gave away approximately 150 bricks that were salvaged from the construction site of the district’s new elementary school. In February of 2019, construction began at 409 Washington Ave, demolishing the building that was once Oxford’s African-American school prior to desegregation.
This site, still referred to as “Central,” is a place held dear by many of its alumni and residents of Oxford’s Freedmen Town — the area that encompasses the homes between North Seventh Street and Fifth Street and South Price Street to Jackson Avenue. The original school building was built in 1939 and named Oxford Training School. This school endured as Oxford Training School until 1962, when the students were instrumental in getting the name changed to Central High School. The school remained Central High School until desegregation of Oxford’s schools in February 1970.
Last week, the central office staff was busy sorting and emptying a pallet of bricks, some covered in mortar, some in large clusters. Regardless of their condition, alumni wanted them all.
The Brick by Brick project, led by Heather Lenard, OSD’s Public Information Officer, was a meaningful way for the district to honor the history of this property and community. “Demolition of the old building was necessary for the capital improvements voted by taxpayers in 2017 — but we are not in the business of demolishing memories. Last week, we enjoyed meeting alumni and the children of alumni who shared numerous stories from those buildings. These bricks did not belong in a landfill, they belong to a special group of people here in Oxford,” Lenard said.
In three days, the district all of the bricks were given away to former students of Oxford Training School and Central High School Classes of 1966, 1968, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973. Former students, teachers, and school leaders, alike, showed up for their keepsake. Among those who claimed a brick for themselves was James Milliner, President of the Alumni Association for Oxford Training School and Central High School, who came with a list of alumni whose elderly age prevented them from coming to pick up their own brick. He is organizing a way to get bricks to alumni all the way from Louisiana to Chicago. Allison McCord picked up a brick for her father-in-law, Bob McCord, a former Superintendent of the Oxford School District. In September, the Central High Class of 1969 is having their 50th class reunion and reserved some of the bricks for their reunion. Bricks have been delivered to City Hall and will be on display soon in the Burns-Belfry Museum & Multicultural Center in the fall. But as the stack of bricks thinned out, the calls kept coming. The bricks were gone in less than three days.
“Thanks to Innovative Construction Management and our district’s grounds crews for handling the bricks for us. What took a small bit of effort on the front end, allowed us to give a token of history and culture back to our community members,” said Brian Harvey, Oxford Superintendent.
The new Central Elementary School — located at 409 Washington Ave — will be complete and ready to occupy in the Fall of 2020.