Howell County News/Jacob Colangelo

From renovation into purpose

Lincoln School holds dedication ceremony
Once a quiet, unassuming building on a residential street, the Lincoln School was a bustling center of activity Saturday morning. The renovation project of the historic was officially completed a dedication ceremony at 1400 E Pony Thomas St in West Plains.
Project leader Crockett Oaks III, whose father is the only living graduate of the school still residing in West Plains, spent time discussing the history of the school and its impact on the community. He noted its importance as the only source of education in the area for Black children during a time when the only alternative would have been no education at all. He also discussed the vision for the project and his desire to make the schoolhouse a place of “deep, profound learning” once again.
Tonya Oaks, who also spearheaded the renovations, expressed her gratitude to the people and organizations that helped the project move forward. Speaking together, the Oaks commented on their future plans for the Lincoln School. Tonya Oaks noted, “As we move forward, […] we are looking to bring content and bring people together in this space.” They expressed a wish to host events that encourage conversation about race within the community.
Writer Kaitlyn McConnell, who founded Ozarks Alive to document Ozarks history and lore, discussed the personal histories and challenges of the living graduates of the Lincoln School and the role segregation has played in the region.
Representative David Evans, who serves Howell County in the Missouri House of Representatives, spoke about the need for unity and the common identity of the people in attendance. He stated, “What do we all leave with today? We are all Americans, we are all Missourians—Howell County, West Plains. But most importantly, we are all Lincoln School.”
Rebekah McKinney spoke about representation of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The organization donated a check for $711 to help pay for the flagpole in front of the schoolhouse.
Mayor Mike Topliff also spoke, issuing a formal proclamation recognizing the history of the school and the injustices of segregated education.
Dr. Bolaji Ogunwo, a Nigerian artist who designed the large mural on display in the schoolhouse, gave a remote presentation on the symbolism in the piece and his experiences being in West Plains while working on it.
Tammy Schulz, who designed the Lincoln School Project logo, discussed her work with the Oaks family and the symbolism found in the logo itself.
Wasting no time, organizers have announced an event for Black History Month -- a viewing of the film Generations: African American Experience in Springfield and in the Ozarks with a Q&A afterwards with Dr. Marlin C. Barber, historian and instructor, with Missouri State University. The viewing will take place on February 6, at Lincoln School, beginning at 4:00 p.m. sharp. Space is limited to 30 attendees. An RSVP is required. Respond or call/text 281-706-3420. 
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