Ada Hanna: Celebrating the Legacy
(This February, The Journal Record will celebrate Black History Month by taking a look back at the Ada Hanna School in Hamilton and the stories that surround it.)
HAMILTON — From its humble beginning, Ada Hanna School was built on responsibility, courage, compassion, loyalty, honesty, friendship, persistence, hard work, self-discipline and faith. These traits are recognized as essentials of excellence for character development.
In order for the students to develop such traits, the dedicated administrators and teachers offered themselves as examples of such admirable ideals.
Ada Hanna School brought about a change in education for Negroes in Hamilton and in Marion County.
In the early 1900s Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears-Roebuck, became interested in the welfare and education of the Negro. In 1912, Rosenwald presented Booker T. Washington a check for $25,000 to aid black colleges based on the Tuskegee Institute model.
Rosenwald was attracted to Booker T. Washington and his philosophy of black self-help, as well as Tuskegee Institute's industrial education program.
In 1913, there was $2,000 left over from the Tuskegee project and Washington persuaded Rosenwald to give the unused funds as grants to Negro communities that wanted to build rural elementary schools.
In 1908, there was a one-room school in the Bexar community, with only five teachers. It had a constructed outdoor privy with three separate, enclosed stalls under one roof. A covered entryway enabled children to stay out of the rain while waiting their turn.
Around September 30, 1921, the Marion County Board of Education authorized Professor G.H. Hanna and two other citizens of the Bexar community to erect a school building, known then as the Rosenwald School, located on what today is called Spearman Road in Hamilton.
Mr. Jim Spears donated land to relocate and rebuild the Rosenwald School. Spears’ request was if the school closed the land would return to his heirs.
Professor G.H. Hanna and his wife, Ada, were the first teachers in the Rosenwald School, and shortly afterward, the decision was made to rename the school Ada Hanna School.
Prior to the establishment of Ada Hanna, school was not an option for many black children. Some communities did not have schools.
The areas that had schools, often had short terms lasting two to four months. Small neighborhood schools were housed in churches and lodge halls. Those schools were the only source of formal education available to Negroes.
Instructors who completed high school were considered well-qualified teachers. Some teachers were hired with less than a high school education.
Teachers were highly respected, regardless of the educational level. Salaries for Negro teachers ranged from $25 to $70 a month. Salaries of Negro teachers were far below salaries of their white counterparts.
Teaching conditions were poor. The curriculum was limited to the courses of reading, English, arithmetic, history and science.
The materials and supplies consisted of desks, chalkboards, brooms, water buckets and a pot bellied stove.
Students brought their lunches from home or walked home for lunch. Despite low salaries and humble learning conditions, educators and students thrived.
Classroom instruction was noted as superior, and students said the life lessons were lasting.
Eleven principals served after Professor G. H. Hanna. A new school was built in 1965 under the leadership of Mr. Menrie M. Smith. Ada Hanna School closed in 1969 under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In 1967, integration began. Grades 10-12 attended to Hamilton High School, in Hamilton. Black students in the Detroit community attended Sulligent High School in Sulligent. The last of the students who attended Ada Hanna graduated from 1968 to 1980 at Hamilton High School.
The administrators are as follows: Mrs. Cora Fox (1908-1910), Mrs. Ida Alpine (1910-1912), Mr. Daniel Hankins (1912-1915), Mr. Bigie Blanchard (1915-1917), Mr. Josh Maddox (1917-1922), Mr. G.H. Hanna (1922-1924), Mr. Buron Bobo (1924-1925), Mr. Henry Austin (1925-1926), Ms. Ruby Allen (1926-1927), Mr. James Dixien (1927-1932), Mr. Nathaniel Hooks (1932-1940), Mr. William F. Lacey (1940-1941), Mr. Mark E. Keil (1941-1943), Mrs. Ola Mae Moorman (1943-1946), Mr. Henry A. Moorman (1946-1955) and Mr. Menrie M. Smith (1955-1969).
See complete story in the Journal Record.