H.B. Suggs almost there

The H.B. Sugg School has been named to the National Register of Historic Places.

FARMVILLE — The H.B. Sugg School has earned a spot on the National Register for Historic Places.

The school, which also has been known as the Farmville Colored School and H.B. Sugg High School, served as an education center for African-American children from 1903 until it was closed 1971. It was named after Herman Herman Bryan “H.B.” Sugg, who was an advocate and leader for African Americans until his death in 1980.

Sugg was born to formerly enslaved parents and attended the Mary Potter School in Oxford, N.C., and Lincoln University.

After moving to Farmville in 1918, Sugg taught school at the school and in 1965 he became the first African American to serve on the local school board.

“His leadership was largely responsible for the continued investment in the school and the high quality of education it provided. Through sacrifice and partnership, he worked tirelessly to provide opportunities to African-American students in Farmville,” said Mary Ruffin Hanbury, principal of Hanbury Preservation Consulting.

Over time, the school evolved on its current site, starting in 1922, according to Hanbury.

“An early Rosenwald school was replaced in 1936 by a brick, six-room school which was greatly expanded in 1949. In the 1950s a home economics building was constructed and a gymnasium was added to the main building,” Ruffin said.

The building now serves as a community center and houses Farmville Benevolent Ministries.

Due to the building’s history and significance, both in the African American and Farmville community, Carrie Baker, CEO of the nonprofit Lost Sheep Foundation, launched the effort to recognize the school three years ago.

In 2018, the foundation hosted a gala to pay for the services of Ruffin to assist in the designation and nomination process.

Since then, Ruffin has assisted with needed forms and gathered information about the former school to present for the designation.

Efforts paid off with a decision by the National Park Service to place H.B. Sugg School on the National Register for Historic Places.

“It has a lot of impact. I think it validates to the larger community the importance of a place,” Ruffin said. “There is not a certain commonality with the Jim Crow laws we had. This is a school the African-American community worked extremely hard to establish to be able to provide a good quality education for their children so they would have opportunities later in life to advance.

“There were a lot of sacrifices African Americans made to make sure that (their children) had the same opportunities as white people,” she said. “I think it’s a testament to Mr. Sugg and the whole community that they pushed forward with these goals.”

The accomplishment was a relief and “gratifying experience” for Baker.

“I thank God for everything. I am so relieved,” Baker said. “I thought it would never happen and the building would continue to fall apart. This shows everyone how important the building is. It means more to the black community than anything else in town. This is one thing we have in common and we have a right to have it stand for us.”

With the designation, the school is protected by law and eligible for grants. Grant funding can be used to restore the structure.

The school, which is now owned by Joyce Wilke’s church, Bibleway Church of Farmville, will be transformed into a building to serve the community, according to Baker.

A daycare once housed in the building had to be closed because of problems with the roof.

Once repairs are made, Baker said, the center’s transformation will begin.

The building will house a community resource development program for residents of Farmville, Baker said. The program will help foster needed employment skills such as resume and connection building.

It also will host self-help aid for residents who want to purchase their first home or need help preparing a budget.

Legal resources also will be available through the program.

Contact Donna Marie Williams at dwilliams@ncweeklies.com.