Plans to restore Coalgate 1938 all black school

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COALGATE, OK -- A piece of Black History resides in Coalgate, Oklahoma and a project is in the works to preserve it.

Seventy-five years have taken a toll on the building, which once served as an all black school named after Booker T. Washington.

"It's one of the few remaining black schools that was created by the WPA in 1938 by African American WPA workers," Allen Leaird said.

If you look inside the old school house you will notice chalkboards covered by paint and an old trophy case. Memorabilia that keeps the past from being forgotten.

"We need to remind ourselves where we came from," Leaird said.

That is why Coal County Economic Director Allen Leaird says plans are in the works to restore the building.

"We want to restore this building to usefulness. We want to save it. Make it a vital part of our community, and protect that heritage that is very important to us," Leaird said.

"I think it's awesome, and I'm all for Black History," Mary Smith, with the Coal County Historical and Mining Museum, said.

"I think it's a real good deal to keep the history going around for the African American community. Me, myself, you know, and my family we're far and in between here around these parts, but we're still here and we're strong," Lee Facion said.

Lee Facion says some of his relatives went to school here and when the building later became a church it is where he was saved.

"I was baptized in this church actually. Met the Lord in this church," Facion said.

Leaird says the building has a bright figure.

"We'd like to dedicate a portion of it the Miners Museum if that's possible, but also perhaps dedicate a portion of it to show some relics and memorabilia from the time when it was a school building," Leaird said.

He also says County Commissioner Johnny Ward is working to name the old school after Martharene Bruner who was a former class member and civic leader.

"She was always volunteering in the community and helping out and she's one of those lovely souls if there was somebody needy she was there," Leaird said.

Leaird says no work has been done on the building yet, but hopes to have the project's design by this summer.

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