Magnolia Avenue H.S. alumni to celebrate Dec. 28

Published 7:02 pm Saturday, December 16, 2017

By Yolande Robbins

Three days after Christmas, on Dec. 28, ecstatic alumni of Magnolia Avenue High School will gather at the City Hall Annex at 11 o’clock to begin the festivities for unveiling the marker that will designate their school as one of the best there was, and to them, one of a kind.

Their memories will be easy and instant. The names of legendary teachers, Professor Bowman, Mrs. Katie Washington, Mrs. Connor, Mrs. Custard, Mrs. Watson, Professors McIntyre and Buck, and countless others are all remembered by the people who learned from them but are fading from the view and the remembrance and the history of Vicksburg.

Institutional memory and history are like that. There are names that won’t be forgotten. There are others that just disappear. But there’s been a long letting-go of arguably Vicksburg’s most historic, most singular, and most successful high school, Magnolia Avenue/Bowman High.

In the years since its last class of 1958, that school had become personal property, both commercialized and churched at times, and occasionally held out as proposed renovation for modern uses and newer needs. But nothing proposed ever had support like that school. It was magical.

And its remnant classes of the venerably old and wee younger will gather to remember and celebrate the incalculable impact of that place in their lives.

Magnolia Avenue High School was one of the premier high schools in the country. It is documented among the top three or four most progressive high schools in this part of the country. It was historically progressive in the systems it employed; in the changes it helped bring about; and in the competencies and learning it engendered.

There was no child who couldn’t read there, or recite Shakespeare, or inculcate old history with their thoroughly modern dreams. You can tell to this day just by listening to them and the unfailingly correct cadences of their speech and good grammar. You can separate them from the rest.

What we must understand about Magnolia’s children is exactly whose children they were. They were the children of the beginning and early generations of freed Blacks.

They were the children and grandchildren of emancipated learning where few were too young and none were too old to learn how to “cipher,” write a letter, and read their Bible. They were the scions of a people trapped in illiteracy right after the Civil War who catapulted to near total literacy in just 60 years. And it is their children who are celebrating that we celebrate today.

The marker unveiled on December 28th will show where once a grand structure stood; where hallways to classes marked a passage to life; where names then familiar to us as just household names are now names of our heroes and accomplishers of all kind.

The question for us now, though, is whether we keep what we had; whether the people in that coming crowd who attended Magnolia High School are the latest – or the last — in that line of accomplishment.

And that legacy.

Yolande Robbins is a community correspondent for The Vicksburg Post. You may email her at  yolanderobbins@fastmail.