BEEBE, Ark. – A Beebe schoolhouse, built in the time of segregation, is about to undergo renovations. It was a busy place after it was built in the 1940s, but for decades has sat quiet and empty. After the city voted to demolish it, people stepped up realizing something had to be done to save and restore part of Beebe’s history.
Tucked away in a little neighborhood in Beebe sits an abandoned schoolhouse. At a glance, it brings to life memories from those like Philip Harris who pass by.
“As little kids, we used to come up here and pick the walnuts up off the ground and eat walnut ice cream,” Harris said.
Harris grew up just down the street. While he didn’t take classes there, he’s heard stories from those who have.
“Hearing our grandmother and our parents telling us about the history of them going to school here and the things that they went through.”
Built in 1944, during the time of “separate but equal,” the building served as the schoolhouse for African American students.
“It brings back a lot of memories and it’s sentimental. It really means a lot to us,” Harris said.
A few months ago, the city of Beebe voted to demolish it, but the White County Historical Society decided to step in.
“This is the last Black school left in White County still standing,” Vice President Will Walker said.
He said the plan is to turn it into a community center.
“We’re planning on having a monument with all the students’ names,” Walker said.
Looking at the boarded windows and caved-in roof, it’s not going to be an easy task.
“We’re actually going through quotes right now to get the roof repaired and the inside interior restored,” Walker said.
For neighbors like Harris, he says saving this piece of his family’s history is a symbol of where we’ve been and where we’re going.
“This is the only thing we actually have. This is where we can fall back on and be like okay, we’ve come a long way,” Harris said.
The historical society is selling bricks to go in the memorial garden that will be outside the school. To learn more or buy one of those you can visit their website HERE.