Educators pushing for recognition of the first all-Black school in the New River Valley

William Gresham Elementary was a school for Black students when racial segregation was constitutional

The building has had many uses during its lifetime.

FAIRLAWN, Va. – Members of the T.G. Howard Community Center are recognizing a historical landmark: An all-Black school in the Fairlawn area called William Gresham Elementary School.

“It was nice going there,” Nellie Hazel who attended William Gresham Elementary School said.

Nellie Hazel attended William Gresham Elementary, and only had Black classmates since schools were segregated.

She recalls fond memories of her time there.

“They taught you how to respect yourself, if you respect yourself, you’ll go a long way,” Hazel said.

Records of the school are limited, but we learned the building burned in the late 40s due to a fire.

It was rebuilt in the early 1950s and over time, the school transformed into a kindergarten center and police academy. However, few people knew of its historical value.

“I wish we had some archives to show there was a Black school in New River,” Hazel said.

Executive Director for the T.G. Howard Center, Guy Smith, whose wife taught at William Gresham, is working to collect data on the school.

“We found out not only was the principal but also taught there as well, It’s one of those things you don’t learn about in school and unfortunately hadn’t been shared,” Guy Smith, the Executive Director of the T.G. Howard Center said.

About the Author:

Duke Carter returned to 10 News in January 2022.