Petersburg, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
The Peabody-Williams School
Inscription. Disrupted by the convulsions of the First World War, efforts to replace the increasingly inadequate Peabody School on Fillmore Street stretched out from 1913 until 1920, when the new Peabody-Williams School opened on Jones Street. Charles Robinson, who designed scores of other Virginia schools, including four others and the Petersburg Hotel in Petersburg, and executed master plans for Virginia State University and the College of William & Mary, completed his plans for the new school in 1917. They called for twin buildings, one (the Peabody Building) to house the high school and the auditorium, and the other (the Williams Building) to house the elementary school, linked by both a distinctive arcade and a cloistered walkway. The whole was called the Peabody-Williams School. The surviving building is the Peabody Building.
By Bernard Fisher, December 27, 2009
1. The Peabody-Williams School CRIEHT Marker
The high school was accredited as a four-year high school in 1921, and served for decades as the training ground for many distinguished African Americans, including hundreds of educators. In 1951, when the new high school to your right was constructed, it took the Peabody name, and the Peabody-Williams complex became the Henry Williams School, serving elementary and junior high school students. Later, the buildings were used as an annex for the high school, and the auditorium converted into a gymnasium.
In 1960, Peabody students participated in the sit-in at the City Library; two were arrested. The Williams Building, which stood to the right of the Peabody Building, burned in 1967. Under the court-ordered desegregation plan of 1971, the high school became the Peabody Middle School, and the high school was abandoned.
2. Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail® Map
1. Winonah Camp/Mozella Price Home
2. Carver-Price School
3. Education in 1800's Rural Virginia
4. One-Room Schoolhouse
5. Carter G. Woodson Birthplace
6. Hamilton High School
7. Rosenwald School at Cartersville
8. Jackson Davis
9. Russell Grove Presbyterian Church and School
10. Mrs. Samantha Jane Neil
11. Virginia State University
12. Earliest Known Public High School for African Americans in Virginia
13. McKenney Library
14. The Peabody-Williams School
15. Southside Virginia Training Center
16. Rocky Branch School
17. Early Education in Dinwiddie County
18. Blackstone Female Institute
19. Mt. Nebo Church
20. Ingleside Training Institute
21. The People's Community Center
22. St. Matthew's Lutheran Church Christian Day School
Prince Edward County
23. Prince Edward County Public Schools
24. R. R. Moton High School
25. Farmville Female Seminary Association
26. First Baptist Church
27. Beulah AME Church
28. Hampden-Sydney College
29. Southside Virginia Community College - John H. Daniel Campus
30. Charlotte County Library
31. Salem School
32. Meadville Community Center
33. Mary M. Bethune High School
34. Washington-Coleman Elementary School
35. Mizpah Church
36. Thyne Institute
37. Boydton Academic and Bible Institute
38. Southside Virginia Community College - Christanna Campus
39. Saint Paul's College
40. Hospital and School of the Good Shepherd
41. Fort Christanna
Renewed interest led to its placement on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, and to the beginning of efforts to restore the building in 2002.
(Above) The Peabody-Williams School, c. 1920.
(Left) Rev. Henry Williams of the Gillfield Baptist Church. He and others petitioned in the 1870s to have African Americans appointed as administrators and teachers in the African American Schools in Petersburg. They met with success in 1882. The Williams Building was named after him. The Peabody Building was named after George Peabody, whose philanthropy made the Petersburg public schools, and in particular the Peabody School, possible.
Photos of the Peabody-Williams School courtesy of Dr. Germane Fauntleroy from a postcard courtesy of Virginia State University Archives. Photo of Henry Williams courtesy of Virginia State University Archives.
Erected by Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail®. (Marker Number 14.)
By Bernard Fisher, December 27, 2009
3. The Peabody Building