Abandoned High School in Mississippi
Brumfield High School, Natchez Mississippi
Built as the "new colored high school" in 1925 by the City of Natchez, Brumfield was designed by local Natchez architect William Steintenroth. The school was built by local contractors Ketteringham and Lawrence with Jesse Spencer doing the brickwork and Thomas J. Holmes, the heating and plumbing.
The construction of the "new colored high school" preceded, by a few years, the construction of a comparable high school for white students on Homochitto Street. The school was financed by municipal bonds in the amount of $75,000 and a plea by the school board to the mayor and aldermen for its construction included the information that the existing Union School for black children [on the southeast corner of North Union and Monroe streets] had only thirteen rooms and housed 948 children. The plea stated that as many as 120 children were crowded into a single classroom in the lower grades. Brumfield was the first secondary school building built for African Americans in Natchez, and it played an important role in educating African Americans in the Natchez community from its opening as a high school in 1925 until its closing as a pre-school facility in 1990. The social history of the Natchez African-American community is also closely tied to Brumfield High School. Before the Civil Rights movement unlocked doors to public auditoriums, hotels, and restaurants, the African-American community relied heavily on its churches and schools as headquarters for almost all social occasions.
Brumfield was completed in late 1925 for a cost of approximately $80,000. School furnishings cost about $5,000. The "Colored Parent Teacher Association," headed by C. M. Dumas, raised $1,500 to be used for furnishing the Domestic Science Department. When making the presentation to the mayor and aldermen, Dumas thanked the city "on behalf of the Colored Citizens for making it possible for the erection of one of the finest public school buildings in the South for colored children." Although the City of Natchez gave precedence to the construction of a black high school, it would later spend over three times as much money to build a new separate high school facility for white students.
Brumfield School was named for George Washington Brumfield, a Natchez educator who, "for more than 25 years was principal of the colored public schools of Natchez." Professor G. W. Brumfield was born in Yazoo County, Mississippi, in 1866 and taught school in Yazoo County before moving to Natchez in the 1890's. He was superintendent of the Sunday school at Zion Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church and resided on St. Catherine Street, where Brumfield is located.
Brumfield High School became an elementary school and finally a pre-school, when it housed the Adams County Head Start Program. Brumfield continued to play an important educational role through the 1989-90 school term. After that time, Brumfield School was abandoned by the Natchez-Adams County School System and has become a favorite target of neighborhood vandals. The building has been optioned by the Gleichman Company of Portland, Maine, who are working with the City of Natchez and the Historic Natchez Foundation to renovate the historic school building into an apartment building.
Brumfield School is one of the most dominant buildings on St. Catherine Street, which is the location of buildings and sites that are of local, state, and national significance for African-American history. At the downtown intersection where St. Catherine originates is located Zion Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was pastored in the 1860's by Hiram Revels, the first African-American to serve in either house of the United States Congress. At its easterly limit, the historic junction of St. Catherine Street, the Road to Washington, and Liberty Road, was located the "Forks of the Road" slave market, one of the two busiest slave markets in the United States in the three decades before the Civil War. The ancestors of many African-Americans all across the United States passed through the slave markets at the "Forks of the Road" in Natchez and at Algiers in New Orleans. Along St. Catherine Street are buildings and sites like Holy Family Catholic Church, the first Catholic Church built for African-Americans in Mississippi; the home of Louis J. Winston, a prominent African American attorney in post-Civil War Natchez; and the site of the Rhythm Club, where 209 African-Americans perished in a fire in 1940.