Hiram Rosenwald School Museum has planned events throughout this month and year in its efforts to teach about the history of Paulding’s African-American community and be a community center.
Tyrone Griffin, president of the nonprofit that operates the facility, said the group is working to raise awareness of the museum.
It used a free showing of a contemporary film — the megapopular, Oscar-nominated film “Black Panther” — to help attract people of all ages to the historic facility recently.
Last year during Black History Month, it showed the 2015 documentary film “Wilmington on Fire” which chronicled an 1898 attack by whites on the black community in Wilmington, North Carolina, Griffin said.
He said the museum group considered showing another documentary during Black History Month this year but chose the Marvel Studios film instead.
The museum at 732 Hiram-Douglasville Hwy. has housed historic documents and paraphernalia throughout its existence.
However, Griffin said it also raised its profile significantly in the past year by displaying its programming on a new, electronic LED sign near the side of heavily-traveled Hiram-Douglasville Highway.
The Olde Town Hiram Business Association donated the sign, which was installed in late summer in the former location of the old school’s bell, Griffin said. The bell was moved closer to the museum building on the two-acre site.
It also increased the size of its board of directors, added more historical information and is planning more events for the community – such as a July fish fry and August back-to-school event.
“We’re just trying to grow with the community,” Griffin said. “We’re happy people are seeing it.”
Museum leaders also are working on programs designed to bring Rosenwald alumni back to see their old school, Griffin said.
The Hiram Rosenwald School opened in 1930 as the Hiram Colored School and operated until 1955, according to information on its website.
It is one of only 38 Rosenwald school buildings still standing out of 242 built in Georgia in the early 20th century from a fund established by Sears, Roebuck & Co. President Julius Rosenwald to provide educational opportunities for blacks during the era of segregation.
The state government forced blacks and whites to attend separate schools until the late 1960s in Georgia. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against segregated schools in 1955 but an order for maintaining “separate but equal” facilities usually meant black schools were given a smaller share of available resources.
Museum organizer Joan Battle, recalled that she and her parents “didn’t dwell on” the fact students at her school were using worn and damaged books formerly used by white students.
Battle, a lifelong Hiram resident and retired teacher and school counselor, was the second generation of her family to attend the Rosenwald school. Parents and relatives of District 66 State Rep. Kimberly Alexander, D-Hiram, also attended the school and lived nearby on their namesake Alexander Street.
Sweet Home Baptist Church bought the building after the school closed and maintained it for decades, Battle said.
A group of Paulding residents in 2000 began considering how to preserve the historic building after GDOT announced its plans to widen Ga. Hwy. 92.
The plans included taking the museum site and a 20-member museum committee took over operations to save it from demolition, Battle said.
GDOT later rerouted the planned widening to avoid the building. It then delayed the project until announcing in recent years it was moving forward with the highway’s construction.
The Georgia Historical Society and Hiram Rosenwald School Preservation Committee placed a historical marker at the site in 2007.