Myrtle Beach Colored School Museum stands as historic reminder

Myrtle Beach Colored School Museum stands as historic reminder

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - It's been more than 50 years since the Supreme Court ruled segregating schools was unconstitutional and some Myrtle Beach residents remember it clearly.  That group is working to make sure future generations don't ever repeat history by preserving the Historic Myrtle Beach Colored School.

It's a small, unassuming white building on the corner of Mr. Joe White Avenue and Dunbar Street that doesn't look like much from the outside, but inside, pictures, newspaper clippings and donated artifacts represent the painful years of racial segregation in the Myrtle Beach Community.

"When I look at the pictures on the wall and all the memorabilia we have in here, I think 'my, what a miracle,'" says Mary Canty, who attended the school when it was open.

Canty grew up in Myrtle Beach and vividly remembers when blacks and whites weren't treated equally.  She remembers when her family couldn't sit in a restaurant and order a meal, and when she attended a school built specifically for people who shared her skin color.  She also remembers walking to school every day because there was no bus service for African-American students.

"A few white families lived at the end of 10th Avenue, and the bus would pick them up, and they would ride and yell out the window and throw things at us walking along," Canty recalls.

Before the Myrtle Beach Colored School, African-American kids attended classes at local churches.  The school was built in 1932 and served students through eighth grade for about two decades.  Canty says if they wanted to go to high school, they had to attend Whittemore in Conway, which was a long haul back then, because none of the major roads we drive today were paved yet.

"It was rough, and hard to understand, but it was just the way it was. So we took it in stride and just made the best of it," Canty says.

She didn't know it when she was a young student at the colored school, but Canty's own daughter would be one of the first to change the course of history in Myrtle Beach when she integrated Myrtle Beach High School with three other students.

"I was afraid, frightened, but I didn't let her know, because I felt if she knew how scared I was, she would be scared," Canty remembers. "So I just went along with them."

Canty and her classmates may have been separated from white students at the colored school, but at least they were safe.  She says the first students to integrate at MBHS had to endure taunting and even physical bullying.

"The children would put tacks, hot glue, all kinds of stuff in their seats," she says. "At first they didn't think about it, but after that they would look at their seats to be sure."

Eventually, Canty says, the white kids began to accept integration and the next year, even more black students attended MBHS.  Now, generations later, all of her kids and grandkids are proud graduates of the schools that at one time wouldn't allow Canty inside.  As the years passed, Canty and a group of her classmates decided they couldn't let the school, and what it represented, be forgotten.

"The only thing that we could call our own at the time was the school," Canty says of the efforts to restore the school. "And we wanted it preserved. We wanted people to know about it."

The original building was too run down to be saved, so the classmates approached the city of Myrtle Beach and with fundraising and donations from several companies, the "Historic Myrtle Beach Colored School Museum and Education Center" was built, brand new.

The building doesn't serve just to remind people of the segregated school days, but also the tough spirits that developed from what the students endured.

"[The artifacts] just bring it all back to memory," Canty says. "And I just realize how thankful I am, and how blessed I am that God has brought me all these years through danger seen and unseen."

The Historic Myrtle Beach Colored School Museum and Education Center is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday and Saturday, and from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Copyright 2013 WMBF News. All rights reserved.