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Alabama Original: Trinity School

Trinity School, which sits on the site of a Civil War site, Fort Henderson, was one of the last all-black schools. It closed in 1970 when integration became law.

Posted: Feb 24, 2021 8:39 AM
Updated: Apr 23, 2021 11:18 AM

In the 1900s, Black children in North Alabama thought of Trinity School not as a place to be separate from whites, but as a second home for them.

"You have to understand, you have to look at the atmosphere. What it was like in the '60s and '70s. Here was a place where Black folks could come and you felt like you were somebody. You were treated like you were somebody. And people cared for you. And they wanted you to be the best that you could be," said Trinity School Class of 1970 graduate Barbara Clemons.

Della Dardy graduated from Trinity in 1964. She remembers going to a different window than the whites at Dairy Queen to get ice cream. Or only being allowed to sit in the balcony at the theater while the white kids sat close to the stage. But at school?

"Here at Trinity...We were just like everybody else," Dardy said.

Trinity School was first built to educate the children of freed slaves in the late 1800s. Having gone through two fires in two locations, Trinity made its home off Browns Ferry Street in Athens - the former location of Fort Henderson during the Civil War. As time went on and the school grew, so did its following.

"The people in the community - if you were attending trinity, or if you had graduated from Trinity - they treated you as if you had been to college. That's how much Trinity meant to this community," said Trinity School Class of 1966 graduate David Malone.

Today, David is the president of Athens-Limestone Community Association. They've salvaged parts of the school like the original stairs and fountain, but could only save so much of the building that fell apart after it was abandoned. Nowadays, he and other members of the association work to ensure the school and historic site are not forgotten.

"The moat went all the way around the fort. In other words, if the enemy came on top of the hill, they had to come up the hill to attack," said Malone of the hill that still surrounds the school grounds today.

That's exactly what happened in 1864. Confederate general and later grand wizard of the KKK Nathan B. Forrest took over the fort from the infantry that was there.

Today, the association - both Black and white - works to keep stories like this alive. And to restore the school to what it once was while making the people of Athens aware of the history this site has.

"We are lucky to be sitting right here. You should've seen it before we got started," said Athens-Limestone Community Association Vice President Richard Martin.

The association pays for renovations to the school with donations from the public. To donate or find more information, visit their Facebook page.

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