[graphic header] National Register of Historic Places African American History Month

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Aerial view of the underwater wreckage of the USS Alligator, and a c1840 sketch of the schooner's spar and sails
National Register photographs

USS Alligator, off the coast of the Florida Keys

The wreck of the U.S. schooner Alligator lies near the Alligator Reef Lighthouse on the Atlantic Ocean side of the Florida Keys, Florida. Built in the Boston Navy yard in 1820, this warship saw duty in 1821 and 1822 patrolling the west coast of Africa on anti-slavery trade duty. During one of those tours, the Alligator transported an agent of the American Colonization Society, who along with the ship's commander, Lt. Robert Field Stockton, negotiated successfully, in 1821, the purchase of land in Africa for freed slaves. In 1847, that land became the Republic of Liberia. Later, the Alligator was assigned anti-piracy patrol in the West Indies. In November of 1822, while escorting a convoy of ships to protect them from pirates, the Alligator ran aground off present-day Islamorada, Florida. After trying to re-float the vessel the ship's crew realized it was a hopeless task, so they deliberately set it on fire to preclude its salvage by pirates. The schooner was originally 86 feet long between perpendiculars, with a depth in hold of 10 feet 4 inches, and a molded beam 24 feet 9 inches long. Her design showed some influences of the Baltimore Clipper schooner. The 198-ton vessel carried 12 six-pound guns as armament.

 
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Recent view of Behavior Cemetery, Sapelo Island, Georgia
National Register photograph


Behavior Cemetery, McIntosh County, Georgia

Behavior Cemetery is a unique post-Civil War African American burial ground located in the center, south end of Sapelo Island. It is one-and-one-fourth miles west of Hog Hammock, the sole surviving African American community on the island. The cemetery reflects African American burial customs. Early grave markers include short posts at either end of the graves and epitaphs on wooden boards nailed to the surrounding trees, while more recent tombstones are made of local cement, with some granite and metal funeral home markers. The oldest tombstone death date is 1890 although tradition holds that burials have taken place at this location since antebellum times. Belongings of the deceased are often placed on the grave, such items might include cups and dishes, oil lamps (to furnish light through the unknown paths), and alarm clocks (to sound on Judgement Day). Oral tradition suggests that these were markers with the deceased's favorite object if one couldn't afford a headstone. Graves are informally arranged, not in rows as one often finds in more urban cemeteries. It is likely that the cemetery was originally a slave burial ground, as it is located close to the former slave quarters of Thomas Spalding's Plantation, associated with the Sugar Mill Complex now just west of the cemetery. There was a black settlement called "Behavior" on the island at the end of the Civil War when Union military forces arrived and it would appear that Behavior and the present day Hog Hammock were in close proximity, although no map has been located to substantiate this. Burials continue at Behavior Cemetery today, as this is the only burial ground associated with the African American community on Sapelo Island.


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Sweet Home Vocational and Agricultural High School building, current view
National Register photograph

Sweet Home Vocational and Agricultural High School, Sweet Home, Texas
One of the properties listed in the Rosenwald School Building Program in Texas Multiple Property Submission

The road to literacy for African Americans at the turn of the 20th century was paved with hope and determination. Illiteracy for blacks was being systematically eliminated throughout Texas and the nation. Of all the southern states, Texas could boast of having the lowest illiteracy rate for African Americans, a rate that dropped from 38.2% in 1900 to 17.8% by 1920. The reduction in illiteracy was due in part to the charitable contributions of philanthropic organizations such as the Julius Rosenwald Fund. Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), the son of a German Jewish immigrant who came to America in 1854 to seek economic opportunity, started out in the clothing business but eventually became a partner in a young but thriving mail-order business owned by Richard Sears. Mr. Rosenwald became active in the firm of Sears, Roebuck and Company in 1897 and became president of the company in 1909, and retired in 1924, at a time when annual sales for Sears & Roebuck were almost $200 million. Julius Rosenwald believed that America could not prosper "if any large segment of its people were left behind" and wrote a letter to Booker T. Washington stating his purpose in wanting to help Washington's Tuskegee Institute or schools doing the same kind of work. Washington, in response, outlined a way of implementing a far-reaching educational project in a letter to Rosenwald on June 12, 1912. The first building funded through Rosenwald's personal philanthropy was built in Alabama in 1913. It was the founding of the Julius Rosenwald School Building Program in 1917 that marked the beginning of the most important educational initiative of the early 20th century. By the time the Fund ended operations in 1932, the Program had contributed to the construction of 5,357 schools.

By 1924, 79 school buildings had been constructed throughout Texas- 19 one-teacher, 33 two-teacher, 13 three-teacher, six four-teacher, four five-teacher, four six-teacher schoolhouses, and five teacher's homes. Over 500 Rosenwald Schools were built in the state by 1931, and those that remain are visual representations of significant progress in black education.

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Historic view of the Sweet Home School after completion, c1924-1925
National Register photograph

Constructed in 1924, the Sweet Home Vocational and Agricultural High School is one of two extant buildings in Guadalupe County funded by the Julius Rosenwald School Building Program. The Sweet Home school is a four-teacher type Rosenwald school building that houses four main classrooms, a kitchen, two restrooms, a library, as well as an adjacent teacher's house. The wood-frame building with hipped roof is one of few schools built in Texas using standardized plans designed by Booker T. Washington and Clinton J. Calloway, the Tuskegee Institute's extension agent and administrator of the school building program. Although the bell tower is not featured in an original 1924 photo, it was added sometime soon after completion of the building.

The Sweet Home school also exemplifies the philosophy of self-help that the Rosenwald Fund espoused. African Americans in the community contributed the second largest amount of its initial monies for construction. Sweet Home students excelled with the competent guidance of the school's many teachers. Courses in cooking and sewing for girls and vocational agriculture for boys were taught. In the 1920s a shop was erected to teach blacksmithing, carpentry, mattress making and auto mechanics. Students competed in track and basketball competitions with other schools within the district. Individual honors were given in sewing, cooking, and FHA (Future Homemakers of America). In 1933, Farm and Ranch magazine touted Sweet Home as being the "Outstanding Black community in the nation." After the school closed in 1963, the property was sold. Now owned by the Sweet Home Baptist Church, the school currently serves the community as a nutrition center and a place to celebrate the Church's homecomings.

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