Benjamin Banneker School
Location: Westside Community Center, 930 West Seventh Street, Bloomington (Monroe County, Indiana)
Installed: 2008 Indiana Historical Bureau, Bloomingtons Black Business and Professional Association, Repairing the Breach Committee, and the City of Bloomington
ID# : 53.2008.2
Learn more about African-American education in Indiana here.
African-American students went to "Colored School" on 6th Street, circa 1874-1915, under 1869 law. New elementary school for black students opened here December 7, 1915 with 93 students and 3 teachers. Gymnasium added 1941-1942. Schools integrated under 1949 Indiana law. Segregation at Banneker ended 1951 despite protests from some citizens.
Renamed Fairview Annex, integrated sixth grade classes with Banneker and Fairview students met here 1951-1954, until new integrated Fairview School was completed. By 1955, this building became Westside Community Center. In 1994, after major renovation, it was renamed Benjamin Banneker Community Center to commemorate its history as segregated school.
African American, Education
Benjamin Banneker School(1)
African-American students went to "Colored School" on 6th Street, circa 1874-1915, (2) under 1869 law.(3) New elementary school for black students opened here December 7, 1915 with 93 students and 3 teachers.(4) Gymnasium added 1941-1942. (5) Schools integrated under 1949 Indiana law.(6) Segregation at Banneker ended in 1951 despite protests from some citizens.(7)
Renamed Fairview Annex, integrated sixth grade classes with Banneker and Fairview students met here 1951-1954, (8) until new integrated Fairview School was completed.(9) By 1955, this building became Westside Community Center.(10) In 1994, after major renovation, it was renamed Benjamin Banneker Community Center to commemorate its history as segregated school.(11)
(1) This school was named after Benjamin Banneker, a free black man born 1731 in Maryland. Banneker published scientific almanacs and was one of the surveyors who platted Washington, D.C. Silvio A. Bedini, The Life of Benjamin Banneker (New York: 1972), xiii (B060759).
Many African Americans in Bloomington did not like the name for the new school. A petition appeared in the December 2, 1915 editions of the Daily Telephone and the Bloomington Evening World asking that the Bloomington City School Board change the name of the Banneker School to the Booker T. Washington School. Daily Telephone, December 2, 1915 (B060713) and Bloomington Evening World, December 2, 1915 (B060713).
Reasons for the requested name change include: Washington's greater notoriety, his stance on vocational training, his recent death, his reputation as "the greatest negro of America, " and the ease with which the name could be changed. Bloomington Evening World, December 2, 1915 (B060713).
Ultimately this petition to change the school's name was not successful and the building kept the name of Benjamin Banneker until 1951.
(2) "Colored School, " State Format Historical Marker, Indiana Historical Bureau, 2005.
(3) Laws of Indiana, 1869, 41 (B060655).
(4) Bloomington Evening World, December 2, 1915 (B060713).
Benjamin Banneker School was not completed when the school year started in 1915. As a result, African American children attended school at the old armory building at the corner of College Avenue and Third Street. Bloomington Evening World, September 13, 1915 (B060561).
(5) In 1941, the City of Bloomington and the National Youth Administration (N.Y.A.), a federal agency created during President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, paid for the construction of a gymnasium for the school. Memos, Office of H. Victor Carman, City Civil Engineer, City of Bloomington, September 6, 1941 and October 11, 1941 (B061246).
By November 26, 1941, Woodburn Roofing Sales completed major construction on the Banneker gym. Letter, Walter F. Woodburn to Bloomington City School Board, November 26, 1941 (B061247).
Wilbert Miller, director of after school programs at Banneker School from 1937 to 1954, claimed the gym was finished in 1942. "Renovated Center Gets New Name, " Bloomington Herald-Times, April 11, 1994 (B061263).
(6) Laws of Indiana, 1949, 604-607 (B060617). This law prohibited the construction of new segregated schools. The law required that schools discontinue enrollment on the basis of race, creed, or color of students entering kindergartens, first grades of elementary schools, and first year departments of senior high or junior high schools by the September, 1949 school year. First year enrollments could be delayed until 1950 for elementary schools, 1951 for junior high schools, and 1954 for high schools if equipment and facilities were not adequate to accommodate the influx of students.
(7) The Fairview P-TA protested the transfer of white students to Banneker on several occasions. "P-TA Drive Not Racial, Leader Says, " Daily Herald-Telephone, May 23, 1951 (B060696); Petition, The School Board of the City of Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana (1951) (B060652); "Binford Says City to Push For New Fairview School, " Daily Herald-Telephone, July 10, 1951 (B060699); and Bloomington City School Board Minutes, June 7, 1951 (B060667).
On July 10, 1951, the Board of School Trustees decided to have some white students from nearby Fairview School transferred to Banneker. Bloomington City School Board Minutes, July 10, 1951 (B060668).
(8) The trustees changed the name of the Banneker School to the Fairview Annex for the 1951-1952 school year. Bloomington City School Board Minutes, July 10, 1951 (B060668).
Banneker School was listed as "Discontinued" in the School Directory for 1951-1952. Indiana School Directory For the School Year 1951-1952 (1951), 295 (B060859).
On September 7, 1951, a combination of sixty-one black and white sixth grade students attended class at the Fairview Annex. "School Bells To Ring Out Tomorrow, " Daily Herald-Telephone, September 6, 1951 (B060735) and "City School Enrollment Down by 53, " Daily Herald-Telephone, September 11, 1951 (B060664).
(9) Beginning on April 6, 1954, black and white pupils were moved into the newly constructed Fairview School located on 8th Street. "Students in Switch to New School, " Daily Herald-Telephone, April 7, 1954 (B060979).
The new Fairview School was officially dedicated on May 16, 1954. "1, 000 View New Fairview School Plant, " Daily Herald-Telephone, May 17, 1954 (B060982).
(10) By January 8, 1955, the old Banneker/Fairview Annex building became known as the Westside Community Center, administered by the Bloomington City Recreation Department. The center offered programs for children, teenagers, and adults. Daily Herald-Telephone, January 8, January 10, January 13, 1955 (B061248).
(11) "Renovated Center Gets New Name, " Bloomington Herald-Times, April 11, 1994 (B061263).