Genealogy group hears about PB black educational program

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Butler County Genealogy Society met Feb. 22 at the First United Methodist Church with 17 members and two guests attending.

President Barb Rexroat presided at the meeting. Member Mildred Coursey presented a program on the history and educational system of black families in the Poplar Bluff and Butler County area. The first school for blacks was a one-room schoolhouse called Little House on the Hill constructed in 1880 on land donated by Benjamin Turner. The planning and building of the school located at 6th & Pine was completed by Reuben Wyatt. Kniebert Clinic now occupies the same site. In 1901 Grammer School was built for blacks in the northern part of Poplar Bluff. H. A. Wheeler was the first teacher to work at the school. In 1908 the school was renamed Wheatley School in recognition o Phyllis Wheatley, the first black published poetess. The enrollment then was approximately 200 students. As the community grew there became a need for a larger school. The Wheatley Public School was constructed on Garfield Street in 1928. The school provided education for grades one to twelve. The Class of 1957 was the last class for graduating seniors, and in 1958 the school was integrated with the Poplar Bluff school system. Member June Allen concluded the program speaking about other notable members of the black community with ties to Missouri, including inventor George Washingon Carver, musician Chuck Berry, and seamtress Elizabeth Keckley. The society's next meeting will be at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, March 22, at the First United Methodist Church, 500 N. Main St. Visitors always are always welcome to attend.

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