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Historic African American School In Petersburg, Virginia Set To Fall by Marcus Omar Squires

The Federal Street School also known as the Giles Buckner Cooke School was built in 1923 and is currently abandoned in Petersburg, Virginia a city with over 2,900 blighted and vacant structures, according to the 2020 United States Census. The City of Petersburg currently is illegally opting for demolition by neglect for this Georgian Revival Styled school which housed one of the oldest public African American school programs in the United States of America. During the postwar period The Petersburg School System was considered the best in the state. The African American Community benefited from this greatly and by 1900 illiteracy rates had fallen dramatically among African Americans in the city.
The first public high school for African Americans in Virginia was founded on Harrison Street,
Major Giles Buckner Cooke was the principal and leader of the African American Education movement in Petersburg founding a series of African American Schools in the city. Major Cooke was a former Officer in the Confederate Army who ensured the African American students of Petersburg were given a classical course of study that included mathematics, algebra, grammar, spelling, english, geography, history, writing and bookkeeping. Giles Cooke was a Reverend at Saint Pauls Espicipal Church where he also held African American Sunday School Classes. This school which was named for him has been allowed to fall apart over the course of the last seven years by the Petersburg City Public Schools and the Local Government. Demolition by neglect seems to be what the city is opting for at this time, a piece of African American History will most likely be lost. The city says they donโ€™t have the funds to repair it, but they just lost almost $300,000 in Community Development Block Grants, as they said they didnโ€™t need the money for anything โ€ฆ. A chunk of the federal and state government funds coming into the city are being allocated to council members apartment projects and hotel projects. It’s a sad day for African American History in Petersburg.