Bartlett closes a sign of the times | Return

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It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the future of Bartlett High School, the city’s high school for blacks during the segregation era, was sealed from the start. You thought that society would eventually change and the races would be integrated. When this officially happened in 1954, the school became, well, a victim of the time.

But one that had produced some pretty impressive alumni, including Dr. Jacqueline Belcher, former president of Georgia Perimeter College, part of the University of Georgia system; Clarence Mabin, the first black graduate in civil engineering from the University of Missouri; businessmen Robert Armstrong and Charles Martin; and Minneapolis attorney Paul Thornton.

The school is still remembered.

“I enjoyed my years there,” says James Dodd, 1951 graduate. “I played bugle at ROTC, then played trumpet in our marching band. We have performed at different events and have always participated in the apple blossom parade.

His time at the ROTC helped prepare Dodd for the Air Force, which he joined after graduation, serving four years. Upon his return to St. Joseph, he started working for St. Joseph Light & Power and retired after 38 years.

“We had good teachers at Bartlett,” he recalls. “I loved history, especially American history.”

The history of this school dates back to 1885, when the new “colored high school” began offering lessons in a room rented to 20th and Frederick. Three years later, a school was built in 18th and Angélique to educate black students.

In the beginning, all classes were taught in the new school. Over the years, however, Lincoln School was built on the north side for black elementary school students, and Douglas School served the south side. They of course served as foster schools for Bartlett.

The high school kept its “colorful” name until 1905 when it was changed to Bartlett and a Panther was chosen as the school’s mascot. Why Bartlett? “Brothers WH Bartlett and DL Bartlett have treated the school generously, showing great interest in its well-being. News-Press reported (The Bartlett’s ran a successful farm lending business).

One of the most significant events happened on January 10, 1951, when the Panthers faced the Christian Brothers in the very first game between Bartlett and another St. Joseph school. Public schools weren’t playing Bartlett back then.

CB won, 65-55, but the Panthers fought well. “They are the best team we have faced all year,” said CB coach Dale Kessinger afterwards.

The Brown v. Board of Education Ending School Segregation was made on May 17, 1954. A new school was underway at the Bartlett site and it became the Horace Mann Elementary School.

The final graduation ceremony took place on June 3, with Harold Slater, News-Press city ​​editor, as a speaker. “There is a world of opportunity out there,” he told graduates, “and a striking demand for people who can get along.”

With their school now closed, Bartlett’s students entered public high schools on September 7, 1954. Sixty-one were enrolled in Central, 35 in Benton, and 30 in Lafayette.

the News-Press sent a reporter to Central the next day. “It’s nice to be here,” said a black student. “The whole school seems very friendly to me. “

“We got along well at the ‘Y’; why shouldn’t we be here? A white student told our reporter. Another added that the integration would be more successful “if the parents stay out of the picture. Many of them have prejudices.

It was probably true at the time. Perhaps, some will say, even now.



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