Patty Deveau, President, The Friends of Harrington School

Six years ago on my first visit to the Harrington School on St. Simons Island, Georgia a rooster crowed from a nearby yard as I looked past the crushed corner windows of the historic schoolhouse to the Harrington community. On later trips a cockaded “Woody Woodpecker” taunted us(or laughed at us?) from the woods of the undeveloped community park
as we continued restoration of the old African American schoolhouse and assessed what funds we needed for the next steps. Last Saturday (February 27) the sound of children’s laughter greeted all visitors to the Open House and I smiled and cried a little bit from the sheer joy of bringing children back to the schoolhouse.

Finally, after six years and hundreds of generous small and large donations, children were running circles around the freshly painted schoolhouse. Inside we shared push pin displays and a preview of the programs to be held at the schoolhouse once the interior is completed – historic photos of island African American families; books about Gullah Geechee history; music recorded at the schoolhouse; lists of former students who attended this segregated school; a jar of benne wafers (delicious!) and plenty of stories shared by blacks and whites about growing up on St. Simons Island.

Saturday at the Harrington School was the wrap up event to a three?day tribute to Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers on the occasion of the repatriation to the archives at the Coastal Georgia Historical Society of music recordings, interviews and photographs by renowned folklorist Alan Lomax in the 1930s, 1950s and 1960s. The 1959 recordings were made in the Harrington School.

Saturday was truly a “New Day Coming.” Bright and sunny outside it was a bit chilly inside the schoolhouse – testament to the need for funds to purchase HVAC system – but excitement warmed the guests. Frankie Quimby of the Georgia Sea Island Singers arrived and taught the hildren “Shoo Turkey” until anyone not videotaping this special moment on his or her cell phone fell down laughing as adults and children alike hopped along and tried to shoo the turkey back home. “These children, don’t know about these things,” Frankie declared. “Yes, ma’am” we know but with more special days like this, you and we can teach them.

[Click here to view Frankie and the children.]