Venable Celebrates Diverse History

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

April 28, 2005

Venable Elementary School celebrated 80 years of educating the community today in an open house and lecture for parents, teachers, alumni and guests to see its renovation and where it is now.

"I think Venable really reflects community that we serve and I think we have a very diverse population," said principal Malcom Jarrell.

But the event also showcased it's history. Venable was an all-white student school until Alex Zan became the first African American to enroll at the age of six. He wanted to remind people that it wasn't always like this.

"We had to go to court. They closed the schools down and it's very important to have a sense of history to have a proper perspective as to where you are presently and the challenges ahead," said alumnus Zan.

One of the first African American faculty members hired in 1965 said that the faculty and parents made it a smooth transition.

"We didn't' have any problems with the faculty, and I think that came with everyone in the city knowing what was going to happen and just being prepared for it," said Bessie Williams, former teacher.

The school was actually shut-down for a period of time because people did not want de-segregation. According to Paul Gaston, this continued until the community, particularly PTA members said, "look, let's get real--public education is far more important than white supremacy." Gaston was a faculty member at the time and current historian.

Even though the school is diverse now, it's history will not be forgotten. Faculty will set-up a real world scenario Friday morning. The students will be separated by gender. Both males and females will use separate entrances and separate stairways to symbolize a time when things were a little different.


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