Southern Normal School Celebrates Its Centennial

Southern Normal School, Van Vorst Hall

As a computer instructor for Alabama State University’s Southern Normal campus, I thoroughly enjoy the people that I meet. But I have to be honest and say I wasn’t aware of the legacy that Southern Normal is known for. But this weekend, I have a better understanding and greater appreciation for it’s rich history and what I see as great potential for the years to come.

Mr. James Dooley founded the school in 1911. History tells us that he was  an educator with a strong Christian faith. He believed that blacks would be more successful and able to overcome more social and economic challenges thru the development of an appreciation of diversity. He referred to his teaching style as educating “The Head, The Heart, & The Hands”. He had a passion for educating blacks who had fallen victim to the hands of segregation, which is why he is known as one of the Great Pioneers for black boarding schools in the United States.

In speaking with my students, some who are actually alumni of the school, they were all so proud to be apart of Mr. Dooley’s legacy. Most of the graduates themselves went on to be great educators to pay homage to what Mr. Dooley and his vision had paved the way for.

Today (Saturday 9/17/2011) there was a parade, along with a tour of the campus. In one of the old dorms, they have created an art studio, coordinated and put together by Mr. Joseph Stallworth’s (a former alumni) daughter. You’d have to see the campus to believe it. To me the spirit of those who have come and gone still roam the hallways, each and every day. You can’t help but to feel it when you enter the gates. How great it is to have that great contribution still visible today.

This weekend, although my classes were still in session, I saw a major crowd of old alumni who had gone away for years roaming the old halls that they had once called home for a few years. I overheard them laughing and talking about the memories they shared in Southern Normal School. And as I was closing my classroom door and walking thru the halls of the old Van Horst Hall, I couldn’t help but think…

Although I never met Mr. Dooley, I can’t help but to think that a little bit of his spirit flows thru me too.  I, too believe in the power of education and I hold my students accountable for learning all that I can share. I am adamant that they are aware of the gift of education can do for a community, as well as the personal individual. I’m extremely honored to be apart of the history that is left behind and consider it a blessing that I was even asked to contribute to such a wonderful cause.

For more information about the history of Southern Normal School go to…



2 thoughts on “Southern Normal School Celebrates Its Centennial

  1. Very nice! Thank you for taking the time to write and reflect on Southern Normal’s rich history. It has been a beacon of light for many individuals and families, and for the city of Brewton.

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