HISTORICAL WRITE-UP: Lincoln Normal School

May 19, 2017

 

In May of 2017, I and three classmates designed a travel brochure, along with five historical markers to be displayed in Marion, Alabama's town square. The project aimed to promote tourism and foster healthy discussion about points of pride and legacy within the community. For my part, I conducted interviews with living members of the Lincolnite Society to craft an oral history, which has now been accepted into the Lincolnite Museum. 

 

 

LINCOLN NORMAL SCHOOL  1867 to 1970

 

THE SITE

The remaining structures of Lincoln Normal School signify a period of pride and progress in the realm of African American education. Prominent African American leaders like Coretta Scott King, Jimmie Lee Jackson, William Hastie, and Andrew Billingsley learned Latin, logic, and liberal arts on Lincoln’s campus, and it is stated that a significant percentage of African American PhD recipients began their educational journeys there. Lincoln Normal is preserved by its local alumni chapter, the Lincolnite Club, Inc., who worked to save the last original structure, Phillips Auditorium, from demolition in 1975. Today, Phillips Auditorium serves as a multipurpose building that is used by the community for various functions.

 

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

From a single barn on a small lot of land, nine freed slaves formed and incorporated the “Lincoln School of Marion” on July 17, 1867. Due to limited resources, the trustees sought help from the American Missionary Association to lease the building and grounds. The school grew rapidly, and in 1874, AMA handed the normal department over to the state. The divisions of Lincoln Normal worked harmoniously together until 1887, when an incendiary fire burned down part of the campus. As AMA funds dwindled, the people of Marion made it their duty to restore the original campus. Faculty sacrificed pay while locals provided them with food, and students laid bricks while teachers read them their lessons. In 1943, Lincoln became publicly funded under state-mandated segregation and curricular control, remaining a county school until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, when control transferred to a separate, majority-white city system. As Francis Marion High School began to integrate, Lincoln adopted a vocational curriculum in efforts to keep the school running despite decreasing enrollment. Lincoln Normal School finally closed in 1970, after 103 years of fighting for the educational and civil rights of African Americans in Perry County.

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