Over 200 students were given a week long intensive study on African American history and the contributions of African Americans to the development of the Springfield community.
The Black History Summer Academy is an annual event by Springfield Public Schools for students of all ethnicities.
“We really wanted our children to be familiar with our African American historical figures who have made a difference in Springfield, Missouri,” Gwen Marshall, SPS Equity & Access Coordinator and Academy Co-Founder said in a statement. “Education, business, music, politics, churches — they’ve made a difference, and we wanted to honor their contributions, as well as connect their impact to the upcoming African American Heritage Trail.”
The theme for the week was “Hidden Gems: Black Excellence in Springfield.” The students spent June 11 at Silver Springs Park, for Park Day.
“By being there, students could see the only park in Springfield where black members of the community could go,” Marshall said in a statement. “Students were able to understand it was the only place they could go for recreation, socialization and fun. Roller skating, dances, this was the only place for our community in the past, and it’s still an important place for our community in Springfield.”
The Springfield-Greene County Park Board brought groups through Timmons Hall, formerly Timmons Temple, to teach them about the historic location.
“We rotated in elementary, then middle and high school students, as well as the adult class,” Christine Peoples, Timmons Hall Coordinator, Special Facilities at Springfield-Greene County Park Board, said in a statement. “I wanted the elementary students to remember preservation. I did some animated storytelling for the children to understand why the building was preserved. There were about 75 kids in here, and we had a lot of fun with the fact that Timmons Hall was built in 1932 and that its rocks were collected and moved using wheelbarrows and carts pulled by mules. They each got a rock with a story card because they’re going to tell the story of Timmons Hall with their rock.”
Middle school students participated in charades and a mock church service inside Timmons.
“It’s important not just for African Americans, but to all our citizens in Springfield, that we know our community’s history,” said Marshall. “The Academy is not just for one ethnicity; the Academy brings us all together in unity to explore our past to ensure that we won’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”