Rome Colored School. Main High School. Multiple generations of Rome’s African-American community attended these historic schools. Hurtful times, segregated schools, integration of the schools, Jim Crow laws and the civil rights struggle which followed were all storms of life which students and teachers faced together every day.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SCHOOLS: Established in the 1800s, Rome Colored School, which became Main High School, began as a two-story, eight room building. The population in the community increased, and subsequently a two room building was built for Rome Colored School.
Two rooms and an auditorium were added to the original building in 1938. The gymnasium was built in 1955. The new Main High School was built in 1956. The original Rome Colored School building burned in 1962.
SEPARATE BUT EQUAL: Adopted in 1868, the 14th Amendment guaranteed “equal protection” under the law to all citizens. This doctrine held that as long as the facilities provided to each race were equal, state and local governments could require that services be segregated by race. In United States constitutional law, separate but equal held that racial segregation did not violate the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The separate facilities provided to African-Americans were not even close to equal. Georgia spent only about $10 on each black student whereas $43 were spent per white student in 1930 in the state’s public school system. When students at East Rome High and West Rome High got new textbooks, the discards went to Main.
MAIN HIGH SCHOOL PANTHERS MARCHING BAND: Mr. Whatley owned a drycleaners in the Five Points area for many years and was the leader in the formation and funding of the first Main High School Panthers Marching Band. A talented marching band, they played all the latest hits and put on an impressive show. The late Mr. Herman Scott was the band director. I‘m told he taught James Brown! The story goes that James Brown was in prison at Battey, here in Rome, and during the incarceration Mr. Scott met him. Years later he came to Rome in his limousine just to see Mr. Scott.
THE 1960-SOMETHING SHRINER’S PARADE: One year the Main High Panthers Marching Band was invited to participate in the Shriner’s Parade down Broad Street. They were so excited. They were at the school, dressed in their uniforms, ready to go — when they were notified that they would not be in the parade. Subsequently a check was sent to the school. Too hurtful and upsetting for words, the band members were all so upset.
LEMON STREET H.S. vs. MAIN H.S: WAS THAT FUN OR WHAT! One Saturday afternoon Main High had a football game against Lemon Street High School, from Marietta. The game was at Barron Stadium. The half time show had so much energy. After halftime we all said, “Was that fun or what!”
ROME COLORED SCHOOL. MAIN HIGH SCHOOL: At these historic schools Rome’s African-American students learned algebra, history, science and English. They took band from the late Mr. Herman Scott and learned how to play a musical instrument. They took home economics from the late Mrs. Morrell Darko. The late Mr. Charlie Morrison taught them French and Spanish. They took woodworking classes from late Mr. Bryson. They learned how to type and balance a check book. Upon graduation students were prepared for college.
Main High School closed its doors in 1970. Very fittingly on Oct. 24, 2002, the old Main High School, and the gymnasium, were put on the National Register of Historic Places. The legacy continues with a new Main Elementary School, for which groundbreaking was held last week.
Although many graduates of Main High left Rome and started careers in other cities, they wouldn’t miss coming home to see all their friends at their annual reunions in May.
Rome Colored School and Main High School were the African-American Community’s schools. Chaotic, demanding times. Significant years. Their school. Their good times. Their great memories. Their cool music. Nobody can ever take that away. Happy were the days.
The Black History Month series will conclude next week with, “Let’s Thank a Veteran.” Native Roman Pam Walker is a paralegal, and welcomes your email to her at email@example.com.