FAIRHOPE – Residents, officials and alumni commemorated the role of the Anna T. Jeanes School that for a half century was an education center for Fairhope’s Black students and a focal point for the Eastern Shore community.
On Thursday, a marker was unveiled on Twin Beech Road to acknowledge the school’s contribution to the community, education and Baldwin County.
“It's important that we cherish that, that we embrace that memory and with a marker, that's what we're doing, but I'm telling you we've come a long way, but we've a long way to go,” Board of Education Member Cecil Christenberry, whose district includes the campus, told the audience at the dedication.
The first building of the school was constructed at the site in 1913. Other structures were added in the area over the years, although the four cinderblock rooms are the only parts of the school remaining today. The school was named for Quaker philanthropoist Anna T. Jeanes of Philadelphia. When she died in 1907, she left $1 million in her will to support the education of Black children in the South.
When schools in the Fairhope area were desegregated, the campus became the Fairhope Intermediate School in 1970.
Thelma Todd, a 1961 graduate of the school, said residents and alumni, said community members have worked for years to have the school commemorated.
“It does my heart … I'm just overwhelmed because this is finally here,” Todd said. “We have a marker. We can reclaim our legacy and our history because we might not be here, we never know, but we want our descendants to know that this was Anna T. Jeannes School not Alternative School, because that's what we know now.”
Felisha Anderson, director of the Baldwin County Archives, said preserving the buildings and stories of sites such as the Jeanes School are important for everyone.
“Historic preservation is important because it's our opportunity to transmit our understanding of the past to future generations,” she said. “Baldwin County's history has many facets and events like today help us to tell those stories. Today not only are we honoring our past, but we are commemorating a place where history actually happened. That's something to be excited about because when we do this the entire community grows stronger.”