Willow Hill School: A dream not to be forgotten.
The Founding of WHHRC
The Willow Hill Heritage and Renaissance Center concept was spawned after the 1954 Willow Hill School building and property was placed for sale by the Bulloch County Board of Education in 2005. A group of concerned citizens and direct descendants of the founders of Willow Hill School looked for a way to purchase the school in an effort to preserve the legacy of the Willow Hill School.
This group had approximately two weeks to secure the funds for the purchase of the school property. The group members pooled their resources and personally donated $60,000.00 dollars for the project.
The Willow Hill School was started in 1874 by former slaves. The school was in existence for 125 years; the longest for any school in Bulloch County, Georgia.
The founding of the Willow Hill Heritage and Renaissance Center and its future operation as a museum and community resource is an effort to preserve a piece of American History. This museum will serve to educate and expand the current knowledge of Black History in the 21st century.
To protect and preserve the history of the Willow Hill School by the preservation of property and individual histories related to the founding and operation of the school and promoting an understanding of the school's historical, social and educational impact on the community, county, state of Georgia and the nation.
In 1874, nine years after the end of the civil war, a group of former slaves started a school for Black children. The school which was housed in the remnants of an old turpentine shanty had only one small stove to heat it during the cold of winter. The first teacher was a 15 year old former slave named Georgiana Riggs who learned to read and write during a time when the penalty for teaching a slave was death. The first books most likely shared by all were an old blue back speller and the bible. This small school was the start of a Dream Not to be forgotten.
In 1988 Nkenge Jackson, daughter of Alvin D. & Gayle L. Jackson of Columbus Ohio, a descendent of the founders entered a project in the National History Day Competition titled "A Dream Not to Be Forgotten: The History of A Black School Willow Hill 1874 to the present." The project told the story of a school started by Blacks a few years after the end of the Civil War. The Willow Hill School was started by former slaves during a time when religious and civic organizations were starting schools to educate Blacks. Despite the limited resources Willow Hill would sprout into a community of successful Black Americans whose early history was mostly documented through the oral tradition common in the Black community. The School started by a small group of families was sold to the Bulloch County board of education in 1920 and continued to educate Blacks until 1970 when despite a threatened closing the school continued to educate both blacks and whites in the community. The story of Willow Hill would win first place in the Junior Division of the National History Day Competition and later be awarded notice by the American Association of Museums and become part of a Huntington Bank Exhibit, "A Walk Through History." The history has also been featured in a Bulloch County historical publication.
In 1999 The Willow Hill School was closed and the building became a community center. The year that Willow Hill Closed it was longest secondary school in existence (125 years) in Bulloch County. In 2005 The Bulloch County School Board put the school up for auction and a group of descendents of the founders of the Willow Hill School purchased the school in a effort to preserve the history and create a museum at the site of the old 1954 Willow Hill school building. The family Historian Alvin Jackson MD has collected a database of over 8,000 names, countless recordings of old community members who have since passed and thousands of documents. This oral history needs to become written history in order to pass the story through the generations.
This project is the effort to start a Museum that will tell the story of The Willow Hill School.