CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – An important piece of Chesapeake history has received major support to preserve it for future generations.
The Cornland School off Route 17 served as a one-room schoolhouse for generations of African-American students.
A fight to restore the building has received a major boost thanks to Dominion Energy.
For generations, the one-room schoolhouse was a symbol of a step toward equality for African-American students after the Civil War.
Now students who attended grades one through seven at the Cornland Schoolhouse, like 91-year-old Mildred Brown, say they are happy to see it being preserved.
“It feels good to know that someone is thinking of us,” she said. “Because generations to come will be able to come and see and see what we went through to get an education.”
Cornland School was built by freed slaves in 1902.
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Emma Nixon says her sisters and mother attended school, she had to walk seven miles to get there.
Although she saw other students pass on a bus to get to school, she still fondly remembers walking to school just to study.
“A bus, a school bus, was passing with the white kids there, but I didn’t mind because I knew I had to walk,” she said.
Dominion Energy donated $25,000 for the restoration and preservation of the building.
Bonita Billingsley Harris of Dominion Energy says their donation is a way to remind the public of the power of education.
“Especially for disenfranchised populations, economically disadvantaged populations and minority populations, education has been the great equalizer,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see their story and remember how important education is.”
After having had the chance to see the building again, former students say they are just happy to know that this building – and their memories – will always be there.
“It feels good, it feels good to know where it is now and I can come here and see it,” Nixon said.
The school has been listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.
Members of the school’s foundation say they hope to have spaces for classes to visit and learn about the school.