GUYTON — Even though the sound of children playing and working at the site were silenced more than eight decades ago, echoes of an impactful legacy remain at the corner of Ga. Highway 17 and Gracen Road.
Established in 1880, the Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Normal and Industrial Institute for Colored Students served the area’s black community for more than 50 years, providing educational opportunities that were denied elsewhere because of racial segregation. It closed in May 1936 when Effingham County built a public training school for African Americans.
The two-story school wooden building, which stood close to where the Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Association Education Center is today, was later demolished. A marker erected by the Georgia Historical Society, Historic Effingham Society, Macedonia Baptist Church and the Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Association serves as a reminder of its significance.
The Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Association was started in 1868 by former slaves who desired places where they could fully participate in worshiping God. At the time, they could only sit in the balcony of white churches and observe the proceedings.
The association’s mission eventually expanded to growing black churches and starting a high school for black students.
“The main focus of the association has always been education,” said Wilbert Maynor, Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Association clerk/historian. “In the beginning, the focus was trying to provide schooling experiences for our children because they had none. They had some elementary educational experiences, but Effingham, Screven and Bulloch counties had no high schools for them.
“You had private schools, most of which were church related, for blacks until the public schools came into existence.”
See the Feb. 7 edition of the Effingham Herald for more details.