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January 18, 2013

SEGREGATED TOGETHER: Students learn about ‘separate but equal’ in trip to Division Street School

NEW ALBANY — On their own slates, students figured out the answer to a math problem written on the blackboard. After solving, they held it into the air and waited for the teacher to either tell them to wipe the correct answer off or try again.

That scene could have played out 100 years ago, but it happened with a group of fourth-graders Thursday at Division Street School.

The historic segregated school in New Albany is listed as the oldest in the state still owned by the district that built it. Fourth-graders in the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. spend a day in the bolted-down desks to see what it would have been like to have class a century ago, more or less.

“It’s a great day for them to go back in time see what it would have been like for their great-grandparents and get a better understanding of what a segregated school would have been like,” Anne Smith said. 

Smith is a fourth-grade teacher at Greenville Elementary School whose class had their field trip to Division Street School on Thursday. 

She said the experience taught them more than just what a class looked like all that time ago. She said it also taught them the inequities black students suffered from the time it was opened in 1885 until it closed in 1946.

“They did enjoy seeing and learning a little about the history of the segregated school,” Smith said. “It’s an opportunity for them to learn first-hand what that must have been like for someone of color.”

Saundra Scott was the teacher for the day. She showed students the books black students would have used, which were passed down from white schools once new ones came in.

She said students may not fully grasp the concept that white students and black students attended separate schools, but they get an opportunity to see what some of the differences in the schools would have looked like.

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