Wilson County Schools and Barnhill Building Group Partner to Honor Frederick Douglass School

On Monday, April 1st, 2024, many in Elm City, North Carolina and beyond will be able to honor “The Future’s Past” of Frederick Douglass School. Those in the community may have already seen some demolition in the works at this historic school. What they have yet to see is the true, rich history of that school, what it means to the community, what it means to its students and teachers, and how that legacy will be woven into its future.

Barnhill Building Group, the Construction Manager for the new Frederick Douglass School, has partnered with Wilson County Schools and Nelson Aerial Productions to produce and launch a monumental documentary titled, “Frederick Douglass School: The Future’s Past.” This video will take you on a journey through the history of this community pillar. Originally opened in 1939 as a high school for African American students, the 85-year-old school has evolved through many phases. It is now entering a new chapter, being rebuilt on the same site with an updated structure and spaces to fully accommodate and support future generations of education.

The Wilson County Board of Commissioners and the Wilson County Schools Board of Education have worked together over the last several months to develop a budget that accomplishes the needs of the new Frederick Douglass School Project. On February 12, 2024, Barnhill began the bittersweet demolition of the school to prepare the site for new beginnings. Various items will be preserved and incorporated in the new school’s design, bringing history to life throughout the spaces. Although it’s sad to see such a significant structure go, it brings excitement to know that the legacy of the original school will continue in new ways. As Alice Freeman, Retired Assistant City Manager and former Frederick Douglass High School student and teacher, mentions in the video, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened!”

A shorter trailer of this video will be published on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn by Barnhill Contracting Company and Wilson County Schools. These will also link to the full version, hosted on Barnhill’s YouTube page. You will experience featured interviews from former students and athletes, Frederick Douglass Alumni Association Members, former teachers, and the current Principal and Chair of Wilson County Schools Board of Education. Ed Atkinson, a former student and athlete of Fredrick Douglass High School, reminisces on his time at the school. “When I was at Frederick Douglass, the community had a lot of respect for us, we showed morals. That was the first thing the teachers always taught us, was about attitude.” Casey Wester-Wooten, Principal of Frederick Douglass Elementary, continues the same teachings and standards today. “And we still value respect, and we still value community and we still value family and I think that those things will remain the same and that a new building will really honor those memories,” says Wester-Wooten.