Graduates Remember Dunbar Old All-Black School Brings Back Memories

Article excerpt

GREEN COVE SPRINGS -- The experience of attending an all-black high school may have helped mold Bernard Fennell, who was only 16 when he graduated from Dunbar High School and went on to attend Harvard.

Fennell lives in Kansas City, but has lived in 98 countries as a foreign service officer for the U.S. State Department.

Yet, he vividly recalls his years at Dunbar, Clay County's black high school.

"It was wonderful," said the 57-year-old alumnus. "If you did not get to do a particular thing you wanted to do at Dunbar, it was not because of your color."

Fennell returned to Clay to gather with past schoolmates take part in the all-years class reunion for Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School, which became an annual tradition in 1980.

Activities included several gatherings July 14, a cookout at Hunter/Douglass Park in Middleburg and a banquet on July 15.

Opened in 1931, the school housed first through 12th grades as the county operated under a segregated school system until Dunbar was closed in 1967.

When it opened, Dunbar was located on Walburg and Cypress streets in Green Cove. It was condemned in 1946, said Juanita Henry, a retired teacher and graduate of 1946. Her senior year in high school, school was held at Mount Zion AME Church in Green Cove.

"The new school wasn't built yet," she said.

Mozelle Peters, a graduate and later a teacher at Dunbar, said that after about a year at the church, the school was ready to open on Middleburg Avenue, where it stands today.

One of the first counties in the state to accept racial integration in the public school system, Clay County saw the end of segregated schools when Dunbar closed after the 1967 school year. Jesse P. Tynes, who was County schools superintendent, was said to have helped Clay integrate smoothly.

Fennell recalled being bused to Dunbar, even though Orange Park High School was at his back door. …