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'A point of pride': Franklin community center's new name reconnects with past

Site belonged to Franklin's only school Black students could attend
Posted at 5:49 AM, May 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-10 08:32:50-04

FRANKLIN — The Booker T. Washington School was the only place Black students in Franklin could get their education from 1873-1951.

The original building is long gone — torn down in 1981 and replaced by the Palmer Park Community Center — but the site where the school was used during the days of school segregation now provides a path to a vibrant history and heritage.

Fast forward to May 6, and the former school's site once again carries the name Booker T. Washington as the Booker T. Washington Community Center.

"So, a point of pride, I would say," Janet McDuffey, a former student, said.

The Booker T. Washington School was the only school for Black students in Franklin from 1873-1951.

The Booker T. Washington School is where McDuffey walked to learn. The school on the west side was where most of the city's Black families called home.

"It means a lot. A lot of history here. We didn't have anywhere else to go," McDuffey said.

The renaming of the Booker T. Washington Community Center is part of a bigger project led by a team participating in Leadership Johnson County.

"This day actually means a day of healing," Doug Gray said.

The Booker T. Washington Community Center in Franklin was renamed on May 6, 2021.

Outside the building, a group of five community leaders also created a walking path. It focuses on the people who attended the Washington School and their contributions in hopes of inspiring others to build on their success.

"We all want to be loved and cared for. Appreciated for our differences and we are more alike than we are different," Shadi Lilly said.

So, the site on Madison Street is reconnecting with its past — a milestone for those seeking to preserve a slice of history and a neighborhood's heritage.