When Allen Toles built a secret school where African American children could learn to read and write, he probably never thought that–some 100 years later–it would be on YouTube.
The Verden Separate School was recently featured in a video titled "Best One-Room School Houses in America 2014" by the Greene County MU Extension Council.
"Since 1997, the Country School Association of America has annually toured some of the best kept and most historic one-room schools in America. This video showcases those "best of examples" and provides a wonderful overview of the one-room schools still standing in America. All photos taken by Joan and Dale Prouty," the video's description said.
Loretta Jackson, founder of the Loretta Y. Jackson African American Historical Society (LYJAAHS) said it is good to see the school still educating.
Toles built the school at a time when African American children could not regularly attend school. The Verden Separate School laid dormant on a farm for about 90 years before being restored, a project headed by Jackson.
Today, the Verden Separate School stands on Ada Sipuel Ave., which is named after Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher, key figure in the Civil Rights movement in Oklahoma and Chickasha native. Dark green dedication benches line the sidewalk leading adjacent, and leading up to, the school.
According to the LYJAAHS, Toles was an African American farmer who had acquired the land through the Homestead Act of 1862 and became owner of the land in 1909. After Tole's death, a white farmer, S.C. Loveless bought the Toles farm and allowed the school to continue.
"Education was a symbol of freedom. For them, schooling meant the attainment of a formal education and embodied the emotions, rights, and privileges that the status of citizenship inspired. Building a school and attending school, were for the African American, the light to a future no longer deferred," the LYJAAHS said on its website.
When the Verden Separate School was consolidated with Lincoln Separate School in Chickasha, the school was no longer used except as a workshop and storage building for S.C. Loveless, according to LYJAAS.
About 90 years later, the abandoned schoolhouse was found by Jackson during the filming of a local television documentary about African American history in Grady County. Since then, the school has functioned as a museum and educated people from all walks of life, from teens to politicians.
Jackson thanked everyone who has supported the Verden Separate School project, whether through funding or wielding a paint brush.
"Your work is now being appreciated," she said of the growing recognition of the Verden Separate School. "It's been a miracle all the way."