Savannah, Ga., April 7, 2015 – The Georgia Historical Society announced today that they will dedicate an historical marker commemorating Vienna High and Industrial School as part of the Georgia Civil Rights Trail, a statewide public education initiative commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement in Georgia. Established in 1959, Vienna High and Industrial School was a consolidated school for African Americans during segregation.
“The Georgia Civil Rights Trail recognizes the central role that Georgia played and the leadership that Georgians provided in the movement to end Jim Crow in America,” said Dr. W. Todd Groce, President and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society. “Equalization schools like Vienna High and Industrial School were centers for education but also for community life and their importance cannot be underestimated.”
Speakers for the dedication include Vienna Mayor Eddie Daniels, Wilbert Smothers, President of the VH&I Alumni Association, Janet Joiner, Community Development Director for the City of Vienna, Jeanne Cyriaque from the State Historic Preservation Division; and Elyse Butler for the Georgia Historical Society. The marker text will be read by Mrs. Blakely Humber, Chairman of the Vienna Historic Preservation Commission and the marker will be unveiled by Commission members David Brown and Cheryl Jenkins.
The marker is erected by the Georgia Historical Society, the City of Vienna, the Vienna Historic Preservation Commission, and the Georgia Natural Resources Foundation. The dedication will take place at 2:00 p.m. at 216 Ninth Street, Vienna, GA.
The Georgia Civil Rights Trail initiative focuses broadly on the economic, social, political, and cultural history of the Civil Rights Movement by guiding audiences to the sites where history happened, inviting them to stand on the ground where struggles and events took place, and providing a foundation upon which to build and cultivate a deeper understanding of the past and its relevance to the present.
The dedication is open to the media and to the public. The marker reads:
Vienna High and Industrial School
A Georgia Equalization School
Established in 1959, Vienna High and Industrial School was a consolidated school for African Americans during segregation. As part of Georgia’s massive resistance to federally mandated school integration, politicians and school officials sought to address the blatant geographic and racial disparities in education by constructing hundreds of new (but still segregated) schools across the state during the 1950s-60s. Known as “equalization” schools, they were often among the first modern buildings in rural areas and became centers of African-American community life. With forced integration in place statewide by 1970, many of these new schools were abandoned or repurposed with their students moving to the formerly all-white schools. Vienna was unusual in that it became the integrated Vienna High School with Dr. Napoleon Williams, the head of the former African-American school, as its principal. The school later served as Vienna Elementary until its closure in 2004.
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Georgia Historical Society (GHS) is the premier independent statewide institution responsible for collecting, examining, and teaching Georgia history. GHS houses the oldest and most distinguished collection of materials related exclusively to Georgia history in the nation.
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ABOUT THE GEORGIA HISTORICAL MARKER PROGRAM
The Georgia Historical Society has administered Georgia’s historical marker program since 1998, erecting over 200 historical markers across Georgia on a wide variety of subjects. Now, online mapping tools allow you to design statewide driving routes based on historical markers, while mobile apps give information about markers nearby. Visit georgiahistory.com for more ways to use Georgia’s historical markers and experience history where it happened.