BIGELOW, Ark. — 94 years ago, The Rosenwald School was built in the small town of Bigelow.
The school provided an education for African American students.
The building is now vacant and serves as a community cultural center.
People in the small town want to revitalize the school but now they’re facing a dispute with the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
The University of Central Arkansas received a $634,594 grant from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council (ANCRC) to revitalize and preserve the Bigelow Rosenwald School.
However, people in the small town say they still have the deed to the building and they don’t want anyone coming in and taking over.
“This is a piece of culture in our community,” Tachany Evans said.
The Rosenwald School in Bigelow was built back in 1926.
“And I was born in 1927,” Judge Nathaniel Evan said.
Judge Nathaniel Evan is 92-years-old and lives in Bigelow.
He was one of the first students at the school.
“I graduated from the 10th grade, they had two other buildings out here and they moved them out,” he said.
The Rosenwald Fund, created in 1912 by Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald, provided money to help build state-of-the-art elementary schools for African American children across the south.
“It was deeded to this community for a negro school that is actually on the deed,” Tachany said.
But now the small community is faced with an issue. The University of Central Arkansas received an almost 635,000 thousand grand grant from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council (ANCRC) to revitalize and preserve the Bigelow Rosenwald School.
“We are for the revitalization but we are not for someone coming in and taking it over and the community not having access to this building,” Tachany said.
UCA will use the grant funding to provide parking, accessibility, landscaping, security, and lighting that reflects what is provided on the UCA campus.
“We don’t want that. The majority of us don’t want that in the community,” Evan said.
The University says they can’t comment on specific matters involving litigation.
But says,” We certainly would like to see this project move forward, as we believe saving and restoring this historic community building is a worthy endeavor. We hope that the Rosenwald community can reach a resolution soon so that we can all work together on this project,” says Amanda Hoelzeman, Director of Media Relations at the University of Central Arkansas.
People say they’re not giving up on a school that’s connected to the Bigelow community.
“I’m in the 5th generation so it would mean that much to my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren to have the opportunity to come and do just like we did. It was given to us to do that,” Evan said.
Members of the community filed a petition for Declaratory Judgement.
They are also applying for grants and accepting donations.
There were 389 Rosenwald schools built in Arkansas. According to the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, only 18 Rosenwald buildings remain in Arkansas today.