In 1865, following the Civil War, the Freedmen's Bureau joined with numerous Northern church and civic leaders to successfully encourage teachers to travel to the South to educate newly freed slaves. Such was the case in 1867 in Wytheville, Virginia, where the Freedmen's Bureau rented four rooms below a Tazewell Street printing office and established a church and school for former African-American slaves. At the same time, the Freedmen's Bureau encouraged the construction of another building, at the corner of Fifth and Franklin Streets, to take the place of the first school.
In 1883, two Wytheville groups, trustees of both the Evansham School District and the Franklin Street Methodist Episcopal Church, purchased the Freedmen's school. To meet the needs of Wytheville's growing African-American population, the new leadership erected a larger school on the site, known today as the Wytheville Training School.
Within the next two years, Wytheville's African-American community decided to construct a church next door to the new school. As workers built the new Franklin Street Methodist Episcopal Church, African-American citizens used the school as an education center, as well as a site for weddings, socials, funerals, and other occasions.
Later named the Wytheville Training School, the facility welcomed African-American students in the Wytheville area. By the late 1930s, the school hosted African-American high school students from nearby Bland, Grayson and Carroll counties, as well as some African-American elementary school students from Wythe County and vicinity. When the school became overcrowded in 1944, school officials moved the Rock Dale School, an unused white school, to the Wytheville Training School site to accommodate the increasing number of students.
In 1952, the Wytheville Training School was closed due to deterioration and lack of space. In the same year, School Board officials dedicated the newly constructed Scott Memorial High School on the south side of Wytheville. The new school was named for Professor Richard Henry Scott, an early African-American educator at the Wytheville Training School.
Between 1953 and 1999, the Wytheville Training School building and site were owned by a series of private owners and businesses. The last of these was R.P. Johnson and Sons, Inc., a local farm equipment dealer which owned the property during most of the 1980s and 1990s. During the R.P. Johnson ownership, the building was renovated and restored to near its original condition and appearance.
A group of interested citizens organized in 2000 to purchase the building from R.P. Johnson. The non-profit Wytheville Training School Cultural Center, Inc., was formed in 2001 to oversee and manage use of the facility.
Today, the building looks just as it did in 1952, with a metal roof, weatherboard siding, and the same green and white colors. The school is now known as the Wytheville Training School Cultural Center, with a mission to preserve Wythe County's most significant African American heritage site and to utilize the historic facility for programs and services that help improve the quality of life for community residents of all ages, races, and economic levels. In the summer of 2010, the Center opened its African American Heritage Museum component, featuring exhibits which tell the story of African American education in Wythe County.
Geographical and Contact Information
410 East Franklin Street