One hundred and fourteen years ago a group of young African Americans participated in closing exercises for what was known at the time as the Ripley Colored Public School.
From the Lauderdale County Enterprise – May 25, 1900 Edition
Closing Exercises Ripley Colored Public School
The Ripley Public School will close the most prosperous session since its existence on Thursday and Friday night, May 31st and June 1st 1900. An elaborate program has been prepared and the teachers are sparing no pain to have everything an up to date affair thus showing their efficiency and the discretion of the board in electing them. The school is now upon on a graded system and working nicely. The program is as follows.
Invocation Rev. A.G. Currin
Is Patriotism a Sham? Frederick Clay
The Gambler’s Wife Maggie L. Russell
Duet – Father is Drinking Again Missus Tyus and Hightower
Recitation – Two Sisters Miss Jessie Hightower
We Are Coming Anna B. Thornton
Solo – An Outcast Mrs. Jennie Rice
Recitation – The Raven Miss Fae Russell
Progress of the Negro Fannie Dupree
Trio – There Are Friends That We Never Forget Misses Norvell, Pearl & Jessie Hightower,
Is It Wise To Begin Now? H L Dupree
Solo – I Am The Merriest Girl That’s Out Miss Maggie L. Russell
Progress of Invention Willie Peebles
Recitation – Brought Back Lela L. Crook
Solo – Boys Keep Away From The Girls Howard L. Dupree
Recitation – Home Instruction Maggie B. Tyus
Trio – Friendliness and Sad Missus Thornton, Russell, Crook
Benefits of Education W.D. Graham
Solo – Friends of my Youthful Days E. Buchanan
The Coming Woman Fannie Norvell
Solo – The Young Man Across The Way Missus Jessie Hightower
Address Professor W.H. Fort – Principle Bruce Street High School Dyersburg
Awarding State Certificates Captain E.T. Hanks – Superintendent of Public Education
Song Of The Steeples Dr. S.R. Clay
Friends and Patrons of the school are cordially invited to attend.
A few interesting facts about the school at this point.
The school did not become officially known as Lauderdale County Training School until 1919 according to the 1985 Lauderdale County High School Reunion Booklet.
The list of graduates that I have of Lauderdale County Training School does not start until 1908, so exact graduates of earlier classes are currently unknown.
The principal during this time period is thought to be Professor M. L. Morrison. It is believed that he was principal from the early 1900s – 1912. He then served as principal again from 1944 – 1945.
It also appears that the school was around prior to 1900 due to this being noted as “the most properous session since its existence” by the Lauderdale County Enterprise.
I decided to see what I could find out about the speakers on the program. It is a good chance that they were students at the school.
Frederick Clay – There are 2 possible “Fred Clays” on the 1900 US Census for Lauderdale County. One Fred Clay was born in 1889 to Harry and Frances Clay making him about 11. The other Fred Clay, also listed as Frederick in some places, was born in 1886 to Hugh and Ellen Clay making him about 14.
Maggie L. Russell – Born in 1885 making her about 15. Her parents are Isaac and Corinna Russell.
Anna B. Thornton – Born in 1886 making her about 14. Her mother is Mary J. Houston (Thornton Washington).
Fannie Dupree - Born in 1886 making her about 14. Her parents are Calvin and Mary Dupree.
H L Dupree – also known as Howell L. Born in 1883 making him about 17. His parents are Calvin and Mary Dupree.
Lela Crook – Born in 1885 making her about 15. Her parents are James and Janie Crook.
I found the titles of some of the poems or readings a little interesting for a school program. The Gambler’s Wife was written in 1844 by Elizabeth Caroline Grey. Another interesting title was Father is Drinking Again, but I could not find anything that looked like it might have been a poem or short story with that title. I also noticed that The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe written in 1845 was on the list of readings.
Cheers to the Ripley Colored Public School (Lauderdale County Training School) on a successful year end ceremony.
-Sources: Lauderdale County Enterprise May 25, 1900 edition, Lauderdale County Highschool 1985 Reunion Booklet