Established in 1909, Piney Woods is one of four remaining historically black boarding schools in the United States. The school began by educating the children and grandchildren of former slaves and continues to instruct students in a variety of liberal arts and vocational subjects on its 500-acre instructional farm. The school was established by African American educator Laurence Jones, a graduate of the University of Iowa. Jones decided to move to Rankin County when he learned of the conditions faced by African Americans and established the school with his own funds. In 1909, the school began with a student body of only three students. Jones escaped a near-lynching in 1918. Rather than flee the area, Jones was actually able to convince the men who nearly murdered him to contribute to his school.
Laurence Jones is the founder and former president of Piney
Woods Country Life School in Rankin County Mississippi. Jones was an avid advocate for
the educational advancement of black youth. In 1917, he became the target of a
mob of young white men who claimed that they overheard Jones plotting an
attack against whites.
what they assumed he said, two young white men rallied up the crowd to plan
their attack against Jones. However, their allegations about what Jones said was
incorrect. Jones actually told the group of religious evangelist that life was
a “battleground” and that they must stay “on the firing line.” Their false
assumptions led them to proceed with the lynching until Jones gave a speech
that saved his life.
With a noose around his neck, he expressed his passion for
the education of black youth and mentioned the support he received from notable
white men in the community. His also expressed his desire to raise money for school supplies for the
school he was planning to start for young black youth. After they realized that
they misunderstood his remarks, they released him. The lynch mob even went so
as to donate fifty dollars to the establishment of the school. Years following the lynching scare, Jones was able to successfully establish this school.