Marking time: Sign marks state's first integrated school
Fort Jackson Elementary School, later renamed Hood Street Elementary, opened in 1963.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Fort Jackson will be recognized for one of its leading roles in desegregation when a historical marker is unveiled in front of the first integrated elementary school in South Carolina.

The marker will be unveiled during a ceremony at 1 p.m., Tuesday, at the C.C. Pinckney Elementary School Annex. In the case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be at the Solomon Center.

The annex, originally called the Fort Jackson Elementary School, and later named the Hood Street Elementary School, was built in 1963. When it opened its doors Sept. 3, 1963, it was the first elementary school in the state to offer classes to both white and black students.

The school opened with nine teachers, including one black teacher and one Hispanic teacher, and 245 students in first through sixth grades.

Samantha Ingram, district superintendent, will serve as guest speaker for the event.

"It was a neat little school," said Thelma Gibson, C.C. Pinckney Elementary School's current principal. "I look back at working at Hood Street as one of my most valuable experiences."

Gibson served as Hood Street Elementary School's principal from 2000 until it closed in 2007.

During her tenure, the school was only open to second-and third-grade students. Students in the other grades already had been moved to Pinckney.

"It was great because the educators could really focus on the children in smaller groups," Gibson said.

"Because the school was so small, it seemed more like a family," said Lauren Gassoway, a Hood Street Elementary School student in the late '90s. "Everybody knew everybody."
Prior to the school's opening, children of Soldiers stationed at Fort Jackson were bused to Columbia area schools, still segregated based on the doctrine of "separate but equal."

As far back as 1895, the South Carolina constitution had mandated segregation in schools. Article 2, Section 7, read: "Separate schools shall be provided for children of white and colored races, and no child of either race shall ever be permitted to attend a school provided for children of the other race."

It wasn't until the 1954 decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that segregation was deemed unconstitutional based on the ruling that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

In 1953, a Secretary of Defense announcement had already mandated that all DoD schools on military installations be integrated no later than Sept. 1, 1955.

Ten months after the Fort Jackson Elementary School finally came to be, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted, outlawing segregation in schools and all other public facilities.

For more information about the historical marker unveiling ceremony, call 751-1672.

Page last updated Thu February 18th, 2010 at 07:50