Readers: It’s always with pride, albeit tempered, that blacks recall their days at their old high schools — segregated schools.
At least they had schools. But not right away.
This year marks the centennial of the establishment of Palm Beach County’s first high school for blacks.
Industrial Junior and Senior High School, near Tamarind Avenue and Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, opened in 1917, at a time when some still wondered why young black people even needed a high school education.
Archives are unclear about the opening. One source says the school opened 100 years ago this month, on March 21, 1917. But we found reference to a fire at “the colored school” in West Palm Beach all the way back in September 1916. An article dated June 25, 1918, said teachers had been selected and the high school would open July 1. And an Aug. 3, 1918, article said the “colored schoolhouse” was nearly done.
Perhaps some of our longtime readers can clear up the confusion.
The first reference we could find to the school being called “Industrial High” is from a July 3, 1918, rally held across the street from it.
Industrial, its school colors green and white, housed as many as 2,000 students, drawing not only from Palm Beach County but also from Martin, which had no black high school.
“They say they couldn’t have tolerated that, but you make it through,” Georgia Singletary, then 78, said at a 2004 60th reunion of the class of ‘44.
“What bothered me, I remember we never got new books. We got hand-me-downs from the other schools,” she said. Still, “we had good times,” she said.
“We were not allowed to walk on 15th Street east of the Florida East Coast (Railway) tracks,” Everee Jameson Clark, the unofficial historian of Pleasant City, wrote in 2014 in one of her newsletters. “We had to cross the tracks before 18th Street (and) walk down the railroad freight yard to the west side of 15th Street and Sapodilla Avenue to get to Industrial High School on 11th Street.”
When the school first opened, it offered a mixture of academics and vocational skills. But unlike much of the South, black educators here had their own school district and union, and over the years, they began steering their students more toward academics.
Students took math, science and French; and in English class, they studied poetry and Shakespeare. They also studied home economics, manners, music and religion, and were drilled on current events.
Industrial was absorbed by Roosevelt High School in 1950. After integration, the school merged with Palm Beach High to form Twin Lakes High, which closed in 1989. Some of Industrial’s buildings now are part of U.B. Kinsey/Palmview Elementary.
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