WILSON, Ark.,––An important piece of history is about to come back to life in the Arkansas Delta.
On Saturday, September 3 at 10:30 a.m., the town of Wilson will unveil a culturally significant historical marker at the former site of the Wilson Trade School, located at Hudson Wren Memorial Park (23 Madison St., Wilson, AR, 72395).
From 1925 to 1970, the trade school proudly provided state-of-the-art facilities and curriculum for local African-American families during a time when Jim Crow regulations ran rampant through the United States. In addition to funding by town founder Robert Edward Lee Wilson, the school was funded the Rosenwald Rural School Project, which supported the construction of thousands of schools for African-American children throughout the South and Midwest from 1912 to 1939.
Jeannie Whayne, professor of history at the University of Arkansas and author of “Delta Empire: Lee Wilson and the Transformation of Agriculture in the New South,” will be the featured speaker along with members of the Wilson Trade School Alumni Group. In addition, local officials will discuss the significance the school had on the community and will present updates on the progress of the town’s restoration.
Alumni Association President Gerre Spriggs said the unveiling of the historical marker will broadcast the importance of the school to the larger community and region.
“I’m excited that (the community) will get to know the school’s history and the great caliber of education that was provided by the school,” Spriggs said. “The education we received was consequential in getting us all through life. It gives me great pleasure to see the historical implications of the school recognized.”
Wilson Director of Marketing Brian Dempsey agreed with Spriggs and emphasized the importance of recognizing the impact the Wilson Trade School had on the community.
“It’s important to the town’s development that we draw attention to the historical significance of the region,” Dempsey said. “Recognizing the trade school’s impact on the community is an integral part of that process.”
When notified of the marker unveiling and future renovations to the former school, Jennifer Pitts, Wilson Trade School alumna and current secretary of the alumni association, was thrilled.
“It’s a part of history to me and all the alumni,” Pitts said. “ ... We (the alumni) want the community to come together and use that building once the renovations are finished.”
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About Wilson, Arkansas
Wilson, Arkansas, is a former company town located in the Arkansas Delta region just 45 minutes north of Memphis. In 2010, the Lawrence Group bought most of the town infrastructure and the 57,000 acres of farmland surrounding it with the goal of positioning Wilson as a beacon of innovative thinking and sustainable living, while maintaining its significant history and heritage. The town is home to the independent Delta School, Wilson Gardens and Wilson Cafe, and construction is underway for the Hampson Archeological Museum. Wilson will also launch a downloadable audio tour in the fall of 2016. Learn more about Wilson at WilsonArkansas.com.
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