An historical marker will be unveiled Saturday near the site of Hilton Head Island’s first public junior high school.
Gullah students studied in the three-room wooden structure of Robinson Junior High School from 1949 until 1961.
It would mark the first time the Gullah children did not have to leave Hilton Head if they wanted to pursue an education past the sixth grade.
Christopher Murray, who was in the last class at Robinson and one of those who worked two years to get the historical marker, said, “It’s validation that education was alive and well on Hilton Head Island long before the bridge.”
An unveiling ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at First African Baptist Church, 70 Beach City Road. The marker is nearby at the corner of Beach City Road and Hospital Center Boulevard.
Leaders expected to attend include Hilton Head Mayor David Bennett and Ward 1 Town Council representative Marc Grant; Beaufort County Board of Education chairman Earl Campbell and District 10 representative Bill Payne; Rex Garniewicz, president and CEO of the Coastal Discovery Museum; and Nell Hay, board chair of the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island.
Ruth Germany, a member of Robinson’s first class, is to speak, as well as Julia Bailey, chairperson of the Old Island Neighborhood Schools Committee.
The committee has been working for about two years to pin down the sites, and document the histories, of some half dozen schools across the island that served African American students between the Civil War and the first consolidated, red brick elementary school built in 1954.
An historical marker was unveiled in 2013 at the Cherry Hill School, built in 1937 in the Baygall community at the corner of Beach City and Dillon roads. It is the only one of the old schools still standing, and in 2012 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Robinson Junior High was named for Bill Robinson, a textile executive from Gastonia, N.C., who is believed to have been the land donor, Christopher said. Robinson was a leader of the Hilton Head Agricultural Society, which operated a hunt club on what is today Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort and Shelter Cove from 1917 to 1967. The Robinsons built a home on Hilton Head and kept close ties to the community.
Christopher recalls some 60 students at the school in the seventh, eighth and sometimes ninth grade, depending on the number of students and their needs. He said that after 1961, the Hilton Head junior high students went to the Michael C. Riley School in Bluffton.
Teachers at the school included Melvin Albergottie, Rosalie W. Barnwell, Sara Y. Brown, Ruth E. Jones, Diogenese E. Singleton and Daisy Wright.
“A lot of individual leaders in the community came through that school,” Christopher said. “It means quite a bit to a lot of people.”