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History of AHS begins reunion weekend

More than 100 years ago, Brookhaven Colored School began in a one-room facility on East Monticello Street. That history — and Alexander High School — will be celebrated Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“Although Alexander High School’s heart stopped beating in 1970 after the 5th Circuit Court ruled an end to segregated public schools, AHS is not dead,” said Dexter Holloway, a member of the Alexander High School Legacy Committee. “Every two years, a homecoming gathering allows former students to come together and reflect on the days gone by. The name Alexander High School is still prominent and its legacy must live on.”

The theme of the reunion, held every two years, is “Lights, Camera, Action: It’s ‘A’ Celebration.”

The public is invited to the first event of the weekend — “The History of Alexander High School,” a presentation by the Legacy Committee. It’s free and begins Friday at 10 a.m. at the Brookhaven Recreation Building on Hwy. 51 North. For more information about the presentation call Holloway at 601-695-0113 or Helen Smith Griffin at 601-833-3014.

Registration for the rest of the weekend’s activities is $85 per participant. Registration is available at AJHS beginning at 9 a.m. Friday.

The celebration will begin with a class get-together and kickoff Friday evening at the Lincoln Civic Center.

On Saturday, the biennial parade will begin at 10 a.m. following its usual route. Starting at the U.S. Post Office on Cherokee Street, the parade will progress east, then turn south on First Street, followed by turns on Minnesota, Washington and Beauregard, ending at Alexander Junior High School.

An assembly will follow immediately at AJHS to honor the class of 1967-68 for their 50th anniversary and the class of 1957-58 for their 60th anniversary. Lunch will also be served.

The Black and Gold Ball will be at 8 p.m. at the civic center.

A worship service Sunday begins at 9 a.m. at AJHS with Rev. Preston Wilson offering the message. That will be followed by a farewell meal at the civic center.

Holloway said the Legacy committee was formed after a group of alumni decided to recognize students who attended Alexander High School.

“An AHS Legacy Committee was established to gather information on each Alexander graduate and to help preserve the history of the school,” he said. “The committee was divided into sub-committees —  executive committee, history committee, Hall of Honor committee, and foundation committee. Each sub-committee works together on the one mission to make sure that the legacy of the school and the significance of its graduates is documented.”

The Legacy Hall of Honor was established in 2006 with 16 alums inducted.   

The history committee sponsored several events to allow everyone in the community to come together to discuss and share their historical perspective of Alexander High School, he said.

“This was done in the form of pictures, copies of old programs, and even oral history,” he said. “If you don’t know where you started from, you can’t fully appreciate or tell just how far you have traveled nor can you measure it.”

Holloway said in order to measure whether or not Alexander High School met the needs of its students and community, the committee started with the year 1865.

“This was done to capture the flavor of slavery and segregation and its impact upon the education of blacks,” he said. “Even though Alexander High School came into existence in 1891, when Professor P.D. Gulledge became principal, history needs to record how we got over working against all odds. History needs to record that the mighty AHS proved Kipling to be right in his poem, ‘If,’ when he pinned ‘…and stoop and build ‘em up with worn tools.’ In this case, worn out textbooks. Black students, prior to 1965 never had new textbooks, nor did they benefit from local tax revenue as the white students did.”

Holloway credits the principals, teachers and parents for their determination and commitment to ensure that black students in Southwest Mississippi would receive an education.

“Parents from Terry, Crystal Springs, Hazlehurst, Monticello, Collins, Woodville, Tylertown, Wesson, Bogue Chitto and Magnolia paid room and board to private families in Brookhaven to keep their children so that they could get a 12th-grade education,” he said.

From 1937, when the first 12th-grade class graduated, to 1970 when the last class graduated, records show that 1,692 students graduated during this period, he said.

For more information on registration for the reunion, call 601-695-9493 or 601-754-9975.