Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


Morning Star, September 29, 2019, pg. 4

When you come to visit Albion, be sure and visit Holland Park on N. Albion St. This was once the site of West Ward School, which served as a black elementary school from 1918 until its closure in 1953. The building was demolished in 1958. A local group of local citizens has put together an excellent presentation of the history of the school which is on display at the Park, as well as added various objects in the Park itself. It is a shining example of the fine work that can be done at other sites in Albion in the future.

The history of West Ward School is covered in my 1991 book, "A History of the Albion Public Schools," pages 30-34, and 52-55. Remaining copies of this hard-cover book are available from yours truly, or at Stirling Books & Brew, and at Pure Albion.

One tidbit of information that surfaced since the publication of the book is mentioned in the Albion Recorder, August 9, 1917: "Mayor Hoaglin said that some of the colored people had suggested a separate school for the colored children of whom there are about two hundred of school age." Regarding the Albion Public School board meeting that evening, the Recorder reported the next day, "School Problem Confronts Trustees. The school board has a difficult problem to solve. Providing a separate school for the colored children was one of the plans suggested, but it was pointed out that segregation of school children along color lines is prohibited by law." Despite that, West Ward School was turned into an all-black school anyway.

On page 34 of the book is a photograph of a class at West Ward School. One of the persons pictured, Janet (Gant) Geary, now of Detroit, recently wrote yours truly with the identifications. Janet states that this was her 3rd grade class in 1940, and that Vida Vest was her teacher. From our Historical Notebook this week we present that photograph.

Back row, left to right: Diane Bennett, Elizabeth "Liddy" Coleman, Noreen Moorehead, Mary Ann Snyder, Douglas Cherry, Gordon Davidson in front of the door, and to his right is Bessie Woods with an unidentified girl not fully pictured on the right end. Front row: Thatís John "Jack" Burch sitting on the left end of the table, with an unidentified hidden boy behind him. The girls are: Mamie Robinson, Geneva Campbell, Anna Banks, Norma Draper, and Janet Gant on the far-right end of the table. How many of our readers have seen the excellent historical display about West Ward School in Holland Park in Albion?

West Ward School, 3rd Grade, 1940

Next: Albion 100 Years Ago - OCTOBER 1919

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