Memorial Site for first African American Public School in Georgia
A memorial site in Brunswick, Georgia is known to be the first African American Public School in Georgia. The original doors of Freedman’s School opened in 1870 and gave African Americans a chance at a proper education that was acquired in public and not hidden. The school would have never been possible without the continuous work and money secured by Captain Douglas. 1923 an adjacent building was added being named The Colored Memorial High School. A memorial marker is now placed in front the new school that was built in 1955 and named Risley High School as memorial of the original school.
Backstory and Context
In 1829 the legislation made teaching African Americans to read or write a crime, later when freedom was gained the African Americans in Georgia fought for their education since day one. Before Freedman’s opened in 1970, many African Americans would meet in basements or private settings for education lessons. Freedman’s Bureau helped stand up for the rights that African Americans had for education. Freedman’s Bureau rented rooms, provided transportation for students and teachers, also stood up for the protection of the African Americans against those who did not believe in their educations. The Freedman’s Bureau played a major role in helping run the public school.
Captain Douglas Gilbert Risley, born September 5, 1838 was known as the leading reason Freedman’s School existed. Captain Risley was a retired lieutenant from the army, due to injuries received during the battle of Deep Bottoms Virginia. After his injury from the war he was sent to Glynn County, Georgia to be the head of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedman and Abandoned Lands. Glynn County is where he met his wife and gathered the funds to open the first African American School in 1870, Freedman’s School. Risley sadly passed away later, the same year of the opening of the school in 1870, from a blood clot in his lung. Freedman’s school was later renamed Risley School in honor of Captain Risley.
In 1923 a new building was built in adjacent to the original school. This building was name The Colored Memorial High School, which gained its name to honor the African American’s who served during World War 1. This two-story brick building provided twelve new classrooms, a large auditorium and seven additional rooms. This building would go down in history because it was the first building to offer high school grades to African American’s for eleventh and twelfth grades. This building eventually became a grammar school for grades first though eighth.
The campus of Risley became a sixth grade center from the years of 1970 until 1975 when it become Risley Middle School. The year of 2008 the campus became an early College Academy to provide college property. Unfortunately due to decrease in cuts the School closed in 2012. In 2013 a new Risley Middle School was built just north of the original site, leaving a memorial marker at the location of the original new Risley School and the Colored Memorial High School.
1. Colored Memorial School and Risley High School. Waymarking. March 28, 2013. Accessed October 23, 2017. http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMGPKV_Colored_Memorial_School_and_Risley_High_School_Brunswiock_....
2. Freedmen's Education during Reconstruction. New Georgia Encyclopedia. Accessed October 23, 2017. http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/freedmens-education-during-reconstru....
3. Hendrick, Amy Lyn. The Story of Douglas Gilbert Risley, Colored Memorial and Risley School. Costal Georgia Genealogy & History. June 13, 2006. Accessed October 23, 2017.http://www.glynngen.com/history/people/risley1/.
4. Wright, Richard R. A Brief Historical Sketch of Negro Education in Georgia. Savannah, Georgia. Robinson Publishing Company, 1894.