Sunday, June 12, 2011

12 June 1913: Benefit for the Model Training School at the Morton Theatre

On this day in 1913, the Athens Banner ran an unusual notice for a benefit at the Morton Theatre for the Model Training School on Danielsville Road:

The Model Training School was founded in 1903 by Judia C. Jackson, a native of Clarke county; she married another well-known local African-American educator, Samuel F. Harris, in 1912.  She donated her own land for the school, which was across the road from her home. Funds from the General Education Board of New York for the building and Clarke county paid for the building and school furnishings. 

The curriculum was grammar, algebra, Latin, black history, art, music, and drama. The students would occasionally perform in pageants or plays written by Ms. Jackson Harris, and hold the performances at the Morton Theatre or Colonial Theatre. Displays of student projects were sometimes given a window at Michael Brothers department store downtown to show examples of the work accomplished at the school. Many of her students went on to college and became educators and community leaders themselves.

The Model Training School also acted as a county community center. Ms. Jackson Harris helped organize Land Owner Clubs, where local African-American farmers would pool their money to buy land that they could then divide amongst themselves to cultivate. The school hosted agricultural fairs for the community, featuring prizes for canned goods, cakes, livestock, pickles, and other farm products. In the summer, Ms. Jackson "operated a summer cannery for the local farmers and their families." By 1915, the clubs owned 440 acres, a community saw mill, a cotton gin, and a thresher. 

Unfortunately, there was no review of the benefit concert in the Athens Banner the next day, nor is there any record of how much money was raised for the school. The school was later renamed the Judia Jackson Harris Model and Industrial School. Ms. Jackson Harris remained principal of the school until 1950, when she retired. In 1956, the Athens city schools merged with the Clarke county schools, and the Model Training School was finally closed.

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