Anthony Whitehurst spoke at the regularly scheduled Enterprise Board of Education Meeting on Jan. 28.
Whitehurst addressed the board regarding the property that housed the Carroll Street Elementary School.
Whitehurst is the great-grandson of the founder of the school, William Montgomery Donald.
“When the board of education here in Enterprise decided to make him principal of the school on Highway 27, which was the only black school at that time, he moved from Elba,” Whitehurst said. “In moving, he had moved everything that he owned. He moved to Enterprise there on Donald Street. He ended up buying land on Donald Street, Carroll Street, North Carroll Street and the Damascus Highway almost to where the traffic light is.”
He said that in 1905 Donald became an examiner for African American teachers.
“Anybody that was black and wanted to become a teacher in the state of Alabama would have to go through him to take the exam to get certified,” Whitehurst said. “They would have to come to Enterprise at that time where the school is in a photography studio.”
Whitehurst said that in 1906 that the school Donald was principal of burned to the ground. In response, Donald brought the students to his photography studio and started using it as a school.
He said that later, the community wanted to build a new school on the property.
“That school was built with blood, sweat and tears and on the backs of donations and the Rosenwald Foundation that build the school that’s there today,” Whitehurst said.
Whitehurst made a request to the board if they decide to do anything with the property.
“It would be an unfair advantage to take someone else’s blood, sweat and tears, their (finances), and sit back and use it as a gift to educate generations and generations of blacks when it was so hard for us to the get the funding from the education board and the state board at that time.
“To take and make a profit and leave out the people that started it all. I have people with me from the St. Beulah Baptist Church, some who went to that school. We’re asking you to help right a wrong. If you decide to do anything with that property, we’re asking you to return it back to the heirs so we can continue on and make something successful out of that.”
Whitehurst added that he did not know if there were any plans for the property at this time.
Board President Daniel Whitaker told Whitehurst that the board does not have any plans for the property at this time.
Board Vice President Reid Clark said that while there weren’t any plans, he’d hope the community would have input on any plans that might be made for the land.
“I don’t want to speak for the board, but I don’t think we would make any decision without that community’s input,” Clark said.
Board member Roderick Caldwell voiced his support for the notion of returning the land.
“For you guys to be over there working together, that’s great,” Caldwell said. “I really believe that it would just speak volumes for that place to be returned back to the people who donated it. I really do. I appreciate you coming to stand before the board and giving your idea.”
Whitehurst thanked the board and superintendent for letting him speak at the meeting before taking his seat.
The next Enterprise Board of Education meeting will be Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. at the central office on Hutchinson Street. The meeting is open to the public.