Historic Queensland Schools, Ben Hill County

Queensland Negro Industrial Training School, 1918, Educational Survey of Ben Hill County, Georgia. Public domain.

The first known school in Queensland was built at a time when many churches and benevolent societies demanded and funded improvements for African-American students in the South. The first school [pictured above] was originally known as the Queensland Negro Industrial Training School and was later Queensland Elementary and Queensland High. The original structure was replaced by a modern facility in the late 1940s or early 1950s and all structures were razed by the early 2000s.

The historical marker, placed by Ben Hill County, is titled: Queensland Negro Industrial Training School to Queensland Elementary and High School. It reads: In July 1913, applicants furnished 10 acres of land and $800.00 cash to build the Queensland Negro Industrial Training School on this site. The Ben Hill County Board of Education matched the funds, work began, and the school and grounds were dedicated on October 2, 1913. The Rosenwald Fund continued to support the school by financing building projects as needed for growth.

The first principal, J. Clifton Smith, a graduate of Brown College and Tuskegee Institute, promised the patrons that with their cooperation he would teach their children and themselves better use of the land and better modes of living. First term commencement exercises were held May 2-May 5, 1914. School enrollment for the first term totaled nearly 300 students representing seven counties; with 107 boys in the corn club and 76 girls in the canning club. The school was one of the first three in Georgia designated as Training Schools for excellent vocational training in labor professions. The school expanded academic offerings and prepared graduates to pursue professional careers as lawyers, doctors and educators as well as farmers and laborers.

In 1918, the school was supported by the county board of education, the Slater Fund and a Negro Baptist Association, mainly for the purpose of training teachers for the Negro schools. The original school included a two-story building with five large classrooms, a dormitory and teachers’ home. The faculty consisted of the principal and four assistants with an average enrollment of over 200 students. At that time, including Queensland, there were fourteen Negro schools in Ben Hill County. The rest were one- teacher schools located in church buildings with very little equipment.

The world is a better place because of the dedication of patrons, educators, administrators and the thousands of students who were educated on these grounds located “Deep into the heart of Southeast Georgia.” The Christian Fellowship Tabernacle Church, which now owns and occupies this site, continues the legacy of preparing people to make a positive difference in this world.

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