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Social and Civic Whirl

Social and Civic Whirl: The Bell Ringer

“The Bell Ringer” Newsletter which is the official publication of The Schoolhouse Museum is published twice a year. Once in January and once in July. It is an information source for African-American educational history and other historical facts and relevant information about Isle of Wight County and surrounding areas/counties.

Marion Wrenn, President of the Schoolhouse Museum, presented historical information concerning the purpose of the Museum and talked about Mrs. Ruby Thompson’s classroom to the congregants at Rising Star Baptist Church. She also extended an invitation to the audience to “visit this jewel that is housed within our backyard” – The Schoolhouse Museum.

Sandra Lowe/Senior Writer and Historian highlighted Mrs. Nettie C. Whitehurst Evans, in July’s edition of “The Bell Ringer.” Sandra Lowe’s account of Nettie Evans life included the following. Mrs. Evans, born in 1909, began her early education in Nansemond County where she walked 20 miles (10 miles each way) a day to school from December to April where only the “Three R’s” – Reading, Riting and Rithmetic – were taught in a two room school.

After those early years, Ms. Nettie, lived with the Outlaw family, and finished her education at Booker T. Washington High School in Suffolk and later received a Normal Certificate from Nansemond Collegiate Institute. As time went on, Mrs. Evans attended Virginia State College (now Virginia State University) and completed requirements for the “Normal Professional Teaching Certification” from Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Virginia. Mrs. Nettie Evans taught in three different one room schools – Windsor Elementary, Walnut Grove located in Zuni until it closed and finally taught at Fairview until it closed in 1951. At this point, she asked to be assigned to Georgia Tyler Elementary (Georgia Tyler was an outstanding African-American educator) which was renamed Georgia Tyler Elementary and High School and later became Windsor Elementary School. After a rewarding teaching career from a one room school to an integrated school, Mrs. Nettie C. Whitehurst Evans retired, in 1970, after over 40 years of serving children through public education. To hear the full oral interview given by Mrs. Evans visit

Another article was about “Juneteenth.” Although “Juneteenth” was not an original Virginia celebration, as a native Texan and for other Texans living in the area, it is good to know that others are spreading the knowledge or learning about the importance of this historical celebration. Two years after the actual effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, according to information in “Wikipedia,” General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 18, 1865 and read the contents of “General Order No. 3” on June 19, 1865, which announced the total emancipation of slaves. The date is sometimes referred to as the “traditional end of slavery in Texas; however, it was given legal status in a series of Texas Supreme Court decisions between 1868 and 1874. “Juneteenth” is also known as Freedom Day, or Emancipation Day. It is also stated in “Wikipedia” that the slaves in Texas were the last remaining enslaved persons in the United States.

This year, Isle of Wight County held their June 19, 2017 observance at the Historic Saint Luke’s Church on June 17. The event featured Rev. Terrell Batten who explained the importance of the Juneteenth celebration; and Felix Valderrama, Jr. who explained the role of drums during slavery. The Devoted and Devine Community Praise Dancers and singer Graylin Stokes entertained the audience with dance and song. Today, 45 states participate and recognize “Juneteenth” as a special holiday.

As President Marion Wrenn stated “visit this jewel …” – The Schoolhouse Museum located on Main Street in Smithfield, Virginia. It is opened on Fridays and Saturdays from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. For more information concerning scheduled activities email call (757) 365-4789, (757) 357-5182 or (757) 356-9589 or request information by writing to The Schoolhouse Museum at PO BOX 1113, Smithfield, Virginia 23431.

Plan a visit to The Schoolhouse Museum and Isle of Wight County/Smithfield. I promise that you will enjoy the outing.

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