(Feb. 22, 2019) In honor of Black History Month, Worcester County Public Schools paid homage to the former Worcester High School – the county’s only high school for African-American children in grades 7-12 from 1953 until its closure in 1970 – at the former school site, Tuesday.
The former high school, now the Board of Education office in Newark, Maryland, was packed with alumni, county commissioners, board of education members and other residents of Worcester County to celebrate the school’s history.
Alumni of the school joined together, singing the Worcester High song from memory. Board of education members then cut the ribbon for the new display of Worcester High, which depicts history of African-American students of the school in various photos and documents at the front entrance of the Board of Education office building, which was recently renovated.
Dozens of former students attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the exhibit, including NBA Basketball Hall of Fame nominee, Talvin Skinner, who played for the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1970s. Skinner was born in Berlin and graduated from Worcester High in 1970.
Superintendent of Schools Lou Taylor welcomed guests and alumni and thanked everyone who helped renovate and decorate the building.
“It’s a great day in the Worcester County Public School District,” Taylor said. “We are all so excited to have so many of you here with us today to commemorate and honor the history and the heritage of this building. Worcester High School holds a special place in the hearts of those that walked these halls.”
Gregory Purnell, a 1967 graduate, spoke about the history of the school.
“I came here from Berlin knowing that I was coming to Worcester for this auspicious occasion,” Purnell said. “It was the only edifice in which African-Americans could go to school after the seventh grade. Not only was it the only place [for African-American students] but it was the only place that African-American teachers and educators could practice their craft.
“They themselves came from meager beginnings,” he continued. “Some of them were the first to even attend high school or graduate and then to go on to college. They wanted us to have a taste of that, and so they took time with each of us. We being like them, to let us know this is the place where you get the key to that house, the key to that car … the key to the world itself.”
Taylor thanked everyone for attending the celebration, which coincides with the Worcester County Public School System’s 150th anniversary.
“I have always found the history of this building fascinating and I’m glad to be a part of bringing this history out of the shadows or rather out of the storage closets and properly displaying it and celebrating what it is today,” Taylor said.