Cary News: Opinion

Cary’s black community banded together in 1930s for new elementary school

Before schools were integrated, Cary had a segregated black elementary school that burned down in 1936. The local school board did not want to rebuild the school and planned to bus students to an elementary school near segregated Berry O’Kelly High School in Raleigh. But the black families of Cary came together and after much strife were successful in having a new segregated black elementary school built in Cary. The school opened in 1937.

Sallie Jones: I began school at the Cary Colored School, behind today’s Cary Elementary School. Our school burned down in 1936, the year I would have been in the sixth grade. It was (suspected) arson that was never proven. Then they were not going to put another school in Cary for us. Instead they decided we would be bused to Method, near Raleigh. My mother, uncles and other families decided they wanted our own school in Cary, so they boycotted. Some of the parents wouldn’t let their kids go to school in Method. My younger sister and I didn’t go to school for more than a year. My mother had me use my older brothers’ and sisters’ books to study whatever they were studying. In the spring I passed the test to qualify for the eighth grade. I went into the eighth grade at Berry O’Kelly High School in Method.

The local school board in Cary kept saying they couldn’t find land to rebuild our school in Cary. My mother, Emily Jones, and my uncle, Goelet Arrington, owned some land where the gym for Kingswood School stands today. When they heard the complaints that there was no land available, they wanted a school so badly that they gave their land to Cary, making it possible to build the school. The original building was placed on that land.

Jeanette Evans: The first black elementary school in Cary burnt down the same year that I was supposed to start school there. We had to wait until they built our new school.

My father, mother and others worked very hard to get a new school in Cary. Bun Ferrell and Loveless and Clyde Evans Sr. were all on the black school board and they worked hard for a new school. I eventually went to Kingswood Elementary, the school my parents helped build. They were going to name it Bun Ferrell Elementary School, but when they decided to never name a school after a person, they called it East Cary Elementary School, and it was later changed to Kingswood Elementary. They named a street that runs alongside the school Ferrell Street after Bun Ferrell instead. Bun Ferrell sold some of the land that the school is on.

East Cary Elementary (later Kingswood) started as just a one-room brick building. We were all in one room, every grade. I was one of the first to go to that school when it opened. We were small, but they kept on building the school. I remember Ms. Logan and Ms. Hope. They just had three teachers in the beginning. It went from the first to the seventh grade, and then we went to Berry O’Kelly High School in Method.

Cary’s Heritage is taken from the book, “Desegregating Cary ,” first published in February 2010. The book is a collection of oral history interviews conducted between local citizens and Friends of the Page-Walker.