“An African American NR History site….”
City Directories and History: The Catawba School was built in 1924-25 to serve the African-American community in southeastern York County, S.C. It was known as the Catawba School on official lists of Rosenwald schools, but is generally known as the Liberty Hill School because of its association with Liberty Hill Missionary Baptist Church. This National Register property was one of York County’s early African-American Rosenwald style schools. Local historians Paul Gettys and Gladys Robinson worked hard to research and prevail in getting the site recognized as an important historic building, known as Liberty Hill School.
The school was originally constructed with assistance from the Julius Rosenwald Fund. This program provided matching funds to local communities and school districts to build schools for students in an attempt to begin to provide more equal educational opportunities. Education for African-American children was delayed by the prohibitions of teaching slaves to read and write. After the Civil War, some limited schools for black students were established by churches. Hermon Presbyterian Church was begun in 1869 in Rock Hill, it was operating a school for black children under the Rev. A.J. Rainey by 1886. In 1884, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was organized by the black Episcopalians under the leadership of Henry Toole, Rock Hill’s leading barber. It operated under the guidance of W.L. Millicamps. There were also schools associated with Friendship Junior College and Clinton Junior Colleges.
Julius Rosenwald’s school funding program had a significant impact on local schools. By 1928, funds expended on African-American students and teachers had risen sharply to $11.06 per student and the number of teachers was reported to be 4,300. The Catawba School was a wonderful example of the plans offered by the Rosenwald fund and the Supt. of Schools, John E. Carroll, reported the building had cost $2,800. to construct. In the 1928-30 school year, L.R. Roddey was the principal and teachers were Sophia B. Ingram and Margaret Seal. Subsequent principals were Isiah Plair, W.S. Diggs, and Sophia Belle Ingram. The school was abandoned in 1956 having served as an important education center for hundreds of students. The school building has been maintained by the Liberty Hill Missionary Baptist Church for the past five or six decades. [Information provided by the S.C. Dept. of Archives and History NR Application written by Gladys F. Robinson, Paul M. Gettys and Osbey Roddey – 2014]
The 1910 Walker’s post map shows a school at that time very close to where the Liberty Hill school was constructed later.
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