There was no public school for African American in Southwest Virginia until the 1930s. Instead, children of all ages were crowded together in the community churches of the coal camps for schooling. Finally, in 1937 the Appalachia Training School was established for African-American students in Wise County, headed
by C. H. Shorter, the first and only principle, who moved to Appalachia with his wife, Mary Beatrice McClellan Shorter.
Shorter proposed a new name, Central High School, to end confusion over the scope of the school and to boost community morale. The students who attended the school lived in various nearby communities and walked or were driven to school in private cars, leaving the responsibility of public school transportation up to parents and community members. Eventually a small fund was made available by the school board to reimburse drivers. In 1940, a privately owned bus was used to transport students to the school from surrounding communities.
In 1954 the school moved to Big Stone Gap, to the newly built high school that became known as James A. Bland High School. Most students graduated and many continued their education to earn Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral degrees.
Bland High and Elementary Schools closed in 1965 during the integration of Virginia's public schools.
The high school began as a two-room school and later grew into a four-room building. The building is a frame structure with large windows.
Geographical and Contact Information
Big Stone Gap
Town of Appalachia, Virginia
Phone: 423-619 -3797