The Atlanta Board of Education (ABE) opened the doors to its archives and museum today, accompanied by a celebratory ribbon-cutting at the Atlanta Public Schools’ Center for Leadership and Learning. Designed to preserve and showcase Atlanta Public Schools’ rich 141 year history, the museum is an extension of the commitment, innovation, controversy and odyssey that has propelled the district and Atlanta to success.
The museum houses a variety of archives ranging from a manual school bell and high school yearbooks to the historic David T. Howard High School principal’s counter, where parents of students like Martin Luther King, Jr., Vernon Jordan, Maynard Jackson and Walt Frazier registered their children for school.
“This museum will not be a neutral place,” said ABE Executive Director Howard Grant during the program preceding the ribbon cutting. “It should invoke the same kind of zeal that empowered and motivated the founders of APS.”
Lonnie King graduated from David T. Howard in the early fifties, and says the zeal began to well up in him even before he set foot in the museum. King said as he listened to the students speak during the program, watched the famous faces from his past, and shared conversations with the children and grandchildren of his former classmates, teachers and superintendents, he felt a rush of pride.
A few years shy of his eightieth birthday, King expects to earn a doctorate in History from Georgia State at the end of this year. The septuagenarian credits APS for his passion for education.
“My teachers always made me believe I could do anything. They inspired me to learn and turned me into a leader,” he said.
Years after graduating from Howard, King co-founded the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and served as former president of the Atlanta chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Numerous other APS students- turned- leaders attended the unveiling, including the Honorable Judge Glenda Hatchett, Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and media personality and Atlanta Daily World publisher Alexis Scott.
Retired APS employees like former Archer High School Principal Roy Wolfe and 96 year-old retired Washington High School teacher Alice Holmes also attended the event, and earned applause from the audience for their decades of service to the district and the children of Atlanta. Wolfe and Holmes retired from the district after serving for more than 40 years.
Throughout the afternoon, ABE members and APS alumni, staff, students and supporters expressed the fulfillment they felt from attending the event.
Referring to his early days at APS, King said, “They took a ragtag boy with one pair of pants and another pair for Sunday, and said, “You can be somebody. Those old-line teachers with diminished resources and hand-me-down books made wine out of water. So for me, not coming down here – in my mind – would have been a miscarriage of justice.”
For more information about the Atlanta Public Schools Archives Museum, call 404-802-2200, or 404-802-3500.