In May of 1970, RCTS was closed with little regard for its illustrious 51 year history or the contributions that it made to the Black community and the city of Roanoke and the county (Randolph) it served. Its student and official records, graduation pictures, trophies, and other RCTS artifacts were not archived properly as county and state law should have required. Instead, they were placed before the public to be randomly taken for private use and presumably lost to history. Were it not for our work, the effort to disregard an important part of the legacy of African Americans in Randolph County, Alabama would have succeeded. We have largely reclaimed the history of RCTS and attached to it a legacy scholarship initiative that solidifies its footprint in the community. We now have an opportunity to include segments of the rich RCTS legacy (Behind These Silent Walls) in the archives of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) as part of the media guide and collections that will accompany the Museum’s Rosenwald School story – “Making a Way Out of No Way.” We need your help to make this happen! Museum officials have access to our RCTS website (www.rctsfoundation.org); our Behind These Silent Walls DVD and manuscript; and our informative bi-annual reunion commemorative programs. We need access to any original classic RCTS related photos and artifacts (chairs, trophies, tassels, uniforms, etc.) that you may have in your possession. Your precious possessions will be professionally handled consistent with your requirements. Let’s work together to make this happen so that RCTS will be part of the Museum when it opens in 2016. Please pass this request along to schoolmates who are not members of the RCTS Facebook Group. The RCTS story is one of a people “Making a Way Out of No Way. Remember and Grow Stronger!
National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC, is now open to the public. Photo courtesy Gene Thornton ('62)
The long-anticipated National Museum of African American History and Culture was officially opened by President Barack Obama on September 24, 2016. Pre-opening viewing by select citizens including major donors and VIPs toured the museum on September 23rd. Among them were Dr. Alvin Thornton and his grandson, Alexander. He reports the museum is very impressive and it will ensure the history and culture of African Americans will be presented in a manner they deserve. He did say the role of Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and the role Rosenwald Schools played in America has not been fully presented at the museum. Hopefully, the impact the HBCUs and the Rosenwald Schools had and continue to have on the education of African Americans in America will be thoroughly researched, archived, and presented to the public at the NMAAHC.
During your visit to the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) you will not see Georgia Ann Johnson's name or that of her daughter Juline Johnson-McClinton. You will see a quilt display that draws on a quilting art form and tradition that they received from their ancestors and preserved for the current generation. The NMAAHC quilt is pictured here with two of Juline's quilts and her classic RCTS Rosenwald quilt. Thanks Juline ('60) for your contribution to the African American experience and culture.
The Shealey Family of Roanoke, AL played a vital role in the creation of RCTS by helping to raise the funds needed to build and operate the school. The photo collage below shows the parents and grandparents of beloved RCTS teacher Mrs. Countess John Shealey Chapman. Her father, John T., was involved in the actual building of the original 1918 school building. Her mother, Mrs. Mayme Culpepper Shealey, taught at and was the principal of the historic Rock Mills Colored Elementary School, one of the 11 Rosenwald schools built in Randolph County. Other teachers in the family included son Agil and daughter Juanita
The real meaning of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is not in our viewing its contents from a distance through mass media and occasional visits to it during visits to the nation's capitol. Rather, it is our being stimulated by it to uncover the history, and those who made it, that is most directly related to our early development. What better example for the children of RCTS than the Shealey family, whose lives are aligned with the NMAAHC... slavery and freedom, end of segregation and changing America gallery presentations. The parents (John T. Shealey and Mayme Culpepper-Shealey), and grandparents (Tony and Fannie Shealey) of Ms. Chapman are pictured here. Joh T. helped construct buildings and Mayme taught and shaped the development of individuals. They were contemporaries of William Holtzclaw (from Wehadkee) who founded the first college (Utica College) for Black people in Mississippi. Ms. Mayme Shealey graduated from Utica College. Thanks Linda Chapman-Felton for sharing these classic photos. Randolph County needs a museum of African American History and Culture.
Want to know more about the Randolph County Training School (RCTS)? Order the renowned DVD "Behind These Silent Walls" DVD and booklets by clicking here.