The historic Baltimore school in Bladen County, NC

Claudia Stack

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Jean Lloyd, alumna of the Baltimore school picture by Clauida Stack, all rights reserved

The Baltimore School in Bladen County, NC was built on a Rosenwald plan in the 1940s. Jean Lloyd (pictured in the yellow jacket on the steps of the building, which is now a community center) is a dedicated alumni association member. Lloyd recalls that when she attended school there decades ago, she had caring teachers. The teacher she remembers the best is her third grade teacher, Ms. Evelena Bryant, who is now 97 years young.

Bryant recalls that when she taught, she encouraged students to create stories. She wanted them to have fun while learning, but her expectations were always high. Lloyd and Bryant both recall that May Day was a big event at the school every year. The students learned to move in a pattern while each holding a colorful ribbon, which resulted in the May pole being wrapped with the ribbons.

Although the early history of the Baltimore School is not entirely clear, Ms. Lloyd’s research has revealed that the African American community donated land for the school, raised money, and that the school was apparently built on a Rosenwald school plan. As Hoffschwelle notes in The Rosenwald Schools of the American South, the plans were made available to counties free of charge by the Rosenwald Fund, and were used even after the Rosenwald School building program ceased operation in 1932.

This school is another example in the Cape Fear region of the profound effects of the school building program created by Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald. It's also a testament to the sacrifice that African American families made for education.

Southern African American families during the segregation era paid their taxes, then had to raise funds again to obtain schools for their children (See Anderson, The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935). In addition, African American schools received the old books discarded from schools for European Americans, and parents frequently raised money for basic supplies and boarded teachers in their homes.

The Baltimore school operated in the traditions of many NC African American schools of that era. They used music, drama, recitation, and instilled an ethic of service in their students. The quote "enter to learn, depart to serve," which is attributed to pioneering educator Mary McLeod Bethune, epitomizes the mission of the Baltimore school and so many others like it.

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I am an educator and filmmaker. My documentary films on historic African American schools have screened at film festivals, colleges, libraries, and other venues. In Fall, 2017 I completed SHARECROP and SHARECROP: DELTA COTTON, documentaries that showcase oral history of the South’s “forgotten farmers.” These films have screened at festivals in major cities including London, Atlanta, Detroit.

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