A Community Builds A School 1905-1929

Valena C. Jones School -1929

Valena C. Jones School, completed in 1929.

1905-1910

The history of Valena C. Jones Elementary School goes all the way back to 1905 when a small group of men known as the Seventh Ward  Educational League, and led by the late Rev. Alfred Lawless, came together for one purpose; to obtain a public elementary school for the boys and girls of their community. Prior to this time, no such school existed for children of color in the Seventh Ward. Receiving an education at that time was dependent upon your parents’ ability to send you to one of the few private schools located in the area.

Determined to purchase grounds for such a school, the League began to sponsor fairs, parties, fish fries and picnics. As a result, they were able to purchase four lots at the corner of  Miro and Annette Streets with the intention of having the Orleans Parish School Board provide the building. To their disappointment, the Board refused due to a lack of money at that time.

1911-1916

The League decided to temporarily lease an old tenement known as the Bucket of Blood Tenement across from Beecher Memorial Church. This tenement had long been an eye sore and known as a place of corruption, vice and loose living. The building (after being cleaned and repaired by the maintenance department of the School Board) along with the Beecher Memorial Church served as the first public school for the children of the Seventh Ward from 1911 to 1915. Miss Hattie V. Feger was its first principal.

Suddenly, on September 15,1915, the worst hurricane in years struck and the school was completely demolished. Three days later, all the students returned and classes were held in various locations. Grades 1-3 were housed in Beecher Memorial Church. Grades 4-6 were sent to an old corner grocery store. Grades 7-8 used the living and dining room of the homes of several families. In spite of it all, learning still continued.

After the 1915 storm, the community leaders went back to the School Board with a request to build a school on the four lots they had originally purchased. This time the Board agreed and construction began. On March 31,1916 students moved into a one-story twelve room building. It was opened as the Miro School.

1917-1918

It was during the 1917- 1918 school year that the Miro School was changed to Valena C. Jones Elementary, in honor of the memory of  Valena Cecilia Mc Arthur Jones, a devoted public school teacher and wife of Bishop Robert E. Jones.

1921-1930

On April 11,1921, Miss Fannie C. Williams became the new principal and a  campaign was started that spring for a new three story brick building. In 1927, Dr. J.A. Hardin, president of the newly formed Seventh Ward Civic League  took up this cause. Members assisting him were A.P.Tureaud, Alex Mollay, Oscar Daste, Remy Despinasse, R.E. Felton, G.J. McKenna, Morris Lewis, Albert Chapital, Albert Blandin, and Rev. M. Williams. They worked tirelessly to get the Orleans Parish School Board to build a new school. The league even purchased additional land for a playground and set aside $500.00 for a library if the Board approved their proposal. Finally, on January 13,1928, the Board agreed and a quarter of a million dollars was set aside for this purpose. Elated boys and girls entered their long needed new building at the beginning of the 1929-1930 session.

In October, 1929 over two thousand people attended dedication ceremonies for the new Valena C. Jones, considered one of the best equipped school buildings in this section of the country. The three-story brick structure is shown in the above photo. Even though it was designed to accommodate 1600 students, by the mid 1930s there were 2,800 pupils. The name was changed to Valena C Jones Normal and Practice School after a two year Normal School was added whose purpose was to certify teachers to teach in the black public schools of  New Orleans. A nursery school sponsored by the WPA was housed on the first floor. Miss Williams was principal of all departments while  the community and the school it fought to build would continue to grow together.

Sources:  photo taken from Crescent City Schools (Public Education in New Orleans 1841-1991) Donald E. DeVore  and Joseph Logsdon ,1991 USL;  The Louisiana Weekly 30 June 1934 p.11;  The Lucille Hutton Collection, Box 17- Folder 5 (Amistad Research Center).

L.V.C.

13 thoughts on “A Community Builds A School 1905-1929

  1. Thanks Brenda for this info together. Many of us who attended VCJones aren’t aware of this history. I remember many mornings my grandfathrr GJ McKenna walking Aaron n I past your house to school

    • I attended V C Jones in the early 70’s and believe it or not Ms. Scott was one of my favorite teachers. All my brothers and sisters went there. It would be a shame to see that building not there anymore.

  2. MOST OF MY FAMILY WENT THERE INCLUDING ME. IT’S SAD THAT THEY REFUSE TO REOPEN THIS SCHOOL. BUT THEY ARE QUICK TO MAKE SURE THE FRENCH QUARTER IS UP AND RUNNING.

  3. My educational foundation. I’m the teacher today because of Valena C. Jones. Thank you to all the hard working dedicated people who fought to make this school a reality.

  4. I just spoke with someone over the week who said the RSD is trying to put it on the auction. A lawsuit has been. Filed (or will be filed) with the courts to stop them (RSD) from putting Jones School on the auction block for private developers. Keep your eyes open for updates.

  5. Let’s organize and fight to save this part of our history,we have sitting Judges that have attended this school and one sitting Judge Great grandmother was Valena C.Jones. What attorney will stand up and be our A.P.Tureau and file a lawsuit to stop this sale of our history.Let’s start our campaign now we have about 30 of my classmates that attended Mc D 35 that went to 35. Save Valena C.Jones and you Save Our History!

    • I, too, attended Valena C. Jones and really concerned about the history being sold “down the river”. Please keep me in the loop as to what is planned. We are running out of time, as the Sale of Valena C Jones is scheduled for September 2015. Save Our History!!!!!

      • Let’s organize, show up at the school, call a press conference and remove the “For Sale” sign off the school. If we are proud of the 7th Ward then let’s stand up. We should be sick and tired of being sick and tired. We have to fight for everything! When will it stop?

  6. I attended Valena C. Jones school along with my siblings.We were apart of great history.Lets preserve our history and get the word out.If we do not stand for something, we will fall for nothing.We owe this to the people who were responsible for this great institution of learning.

  7. When you turn to the word “Educator” in the dictionary, no definition for the word should be given. A picture of the great lady Ms. Fannie C. Williams should be placed there. Enough said.

    Clarence Williams, Jr. May 4, 2016

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