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Historic Eureka School holds 100-year celebration

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 7:01 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - On Monday, Sept. 13, a special “Teacakes and Conversation” event was held at Eureka School located on E. 6th Street in Hattiesburg celebrating the school’s 100-year anniversary.

On hand for the event were Eureka alumni, city officials along with a host of family and friends as well as dozens of current students from Hattiesburg High School (HHS).

It was an opportunity for the former Eureka students to engage in a conversation with the attending HHS students about what life was like during that time.

Sheila Woods McRae, a former Eureka School student, said the event brought back a flood of wonderful memories of going to school there.

“Having attended this Teacake and Conversation event today certainly brought back a feeling of pride knowing that those who came before me instructed me where I could further my education to have a career,” Sheila said.

“The things I learned helped me to raise my family and even share with them some of the lessons that I learned as a student here at Eureka School,” she added.

On September 13, 1921, the school opened its doors for the very first time, with W.H. Jones as its Principal and served grades 1-12 in what was said to be the second only modern brick facility in Mississippi for the education of African Americans.

The name Eureka, which means “I have found it!,” was settled on after the community meeting was held to decide on a name for the school.

Enrollment at Eureka, at the time it opened, was approximately 800 students and grew to 1,400 by 1947.

This overcrowding was relieved in 1949 with the opening of the new Royal Street school, later named Rowan High School.

Under a new desegregation plan for elementary schools approved at that time, the Eureka campus was closed as an elementary school and became a community education center until the mid-1990s.

In 2008, a groundbreaking ceremony was held to begin the restoration of Eureka School for use as an African American Heritage and Cultural Museum, funded by grants through the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

On February 10, 2013, an EF-4 tornado passed through Hattiesburg severely damaging the roof of the school, but, by the end of the year, repairs had been made.

Multi-phase restorations continued as funds became available, and in 2017, plumbing and electrical repairs and improvements were made along with new paint for the interior.

The Historic Eureka School continues holding special events along with housing civil rights memorabilia in its museum.

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