African American Public Education
The Union School (above) was the first public school built by the City of Natchez for African American students. Built in 1871 by contractor P. E. Willman, the Union School was a grand brick edifice which stood at the southeast corner of North Union and Monroe Streets. It was demolished in the 1950s.
I am writing these last paragraphs in Natchez, where I have come to deliver the Commencement address at the school [Union School], with its 1200 students, and am now in the beautiful home of Professor Brumfield, the principal. I spoke before a representative audience of white and colored citizens in the same hall [Baker Grand Opera House] where Booker T. Washington was entertained upon his last visit to the city.
William Henry Holtzclaw, The Black Man's Burden, 1915
George Washington Brumfield (above, young and old) was born in 1866 in Yazoo County, Mississippi, and moved to Natchez in the 1890s. For more than 25 years he was principal of the African American schools of the city including the Union School, pictured at left. In arguing for construction of 1925 Brumfield School, the school board noted that the
The class of 1927 posed on the front steps of Brumfield School. Built in 1925 at a cost of $75,000, the school was designed by local architect William Steitenroth and built by contractors Ketteringham and Lawrence. During racial segregation Brumfield was a social center for the African American community. Its auditorium hosted performances of jazz musicians including Lazander Kinds, Joe Jennings, Robert Hinds, and Robert Granville. Brumfield closed in the 1980s and was later rehabilitated as apartments.
For about 12 years [after Rhythm Club Fire] we didn't have a band in the black high school because there wasn't a band director. My father[Assistant Principal T. M. Jennings] started coaching athletics in the high school...because the coach was gone....Natchez's fire wiped out a large number of educators.
Ralph Jennings, The History of Jim Crow, 2006
The Brumfield band stands on the front steps of the school in the late 1930s. Band director Woodrick McGuire, dressed in white, was one of the 209 casualties of the 1940 Rhythm Night Club fire.
Brumfield High School became an elementary school in the mid-1950s when the new Sadie V. Thompson High School opened for African Americans.
Erected by City of Natchez.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Education. In addition, it is included in the Mississippi - Natchez Trails series list.
Location. 31° 33.458′ N, 91° 23.551′ W. Marker is in Natchez, Mississippi, in Adams County. Marker is on St. Catherine Street west of Sixth Street, on the left when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Natchez MS 39120, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Barlands - A Study in Black and White (a few steps from this marker); Davis-Miller-Dumas House - 69 St. Catherine Street (within shouting distance of this marker); Louis J. Winston - St. Catherine Entrepreneur
Credits. This page was last revised on March 29, 2018. It was originally submitted on March 29, 2018, by Cajun Scrambler of Assumption, Louisiana. This page has been viewed 161 times since then and 23 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on March 29, 2018.