To this day former students from the two-room school in Kinsale still credit their success to a higher power. Last Saturday, they testified to that time during their class reunion.
On Oct. 12, former students and their descendants celebrated the second school reunion of Hackett’s Hill School. Also known as one of the Rosenwald schools for its small size, it was one of a handful available to black children seeking an education during the early and mid-1900s.
The school is adjacent to New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Kinsale pastored by Reverend Gerald Smith.
“It takes a village to raise a child; I believe y’all experience that and so did I,” Smith said. “We just thank God for the many wonderful members.”
In 2009, members of the church took steps to have the first reunion and to renovate the former school. A sign now hangs over the building as a dedication to the students for their efforts in receiving equal education for all.
Jason Campbell, a former student from Hackett’s Hill, rendered the opening prayer for the day.
“I’m so delighted to see my school mates,” Campbell said. “It started for me 65 years ago right down there and now I’m 75 years old.”
Rev. Helen Johnson said it was a pleasure to welcome everyone to Saturday’s event.
“I am honored to be one of the old students that go way back,” Johnson said. While the students recalled the challenges of walking to school and enduring the weather, Johnson said she has happy to reflect on that time period.
A gathering of schoolmates. From far right: Coordinator Richard Lee recognizes former students Mary Rose and Rev. Helen Johnson for their effort to put together the event. Far left, Pastor Gerald Smith.
Rev. Henry Lee, Dr. Louis Hackett and Pastor Wilbur Dameron served as the guest speakers for the occasion. Each one challenged students and their ancestors to remember that time period and continue their work in Lord.
For many people during the mid 1900’s, school and church were the only social places outside of home. Some relished the occasion to attend the reunion on Saturday.
“It’s just good to be here this evening, be alive and be saved. I just thank God for his grace and mercy,” said former student Harvey Braxton.
Calvin Braxton said his ancestors had a lot of useful information and did the best they could to help their future families.
“Being a young kid that sat around the house and listened to my grandfather talk about walking up the road…I just realized it was a long walk, but our people had to do what they had to do,” Braxton said. “We’ve come along way, but we’re not finished yet.”
Assistant pastor Jacob Plummer, of New Jerusalem, had a lot of memories and laughs from the years spent at Hackett’s Hill School.
“The Lord has brought us a mighty long way,” Plummer said.
Alverta Johnson said like her and other former students, found joy in the smallest things in life. Johnson said attending Hackett’s Hill was proof.
“I used to give what I had to my friends…and I used to love going to my friends house and eat,” Johnson said. “But to all my classmates and friends I love you and God bless you.”
Students and ancestors traveled from other parts of Virginia and also surrounding states on the east coast such as Maryland, North Carolina and New York. A total of 96 people attended Saturday’s event.
The New Jerusalem Baptist Church senior choir under the direction of Juanita Cox rendered the music. Ruth Finklin was the worship leader.