Hopewell School and Church — Clarks Hill, South Carolina
SC Picture Project | McCormick County | Hopewell School and Church
Hopewell Baptist Church was town down on January 17, 2019. Hopewell Rosenwald School, located on the same lot, remains standing.
Hopewell Rosenwald School was built in 1926 to serve the black students of Clarks Hill during the era of racial segregation. Between 1917 and 1932, nearly 500 schools were constructed in South Carolina to educate African-American children. Called Rosenwald Schools, they were named in honor of Julius Rosenwald, then-president of Sears and Roebuck, who helped provide funds to assist in their construction. Though the area now known as McCormick County had boasted two well-known and long-established schools for several generations – John de la Howe School and Willington Academy – they served white children only. No local schools for black students existed until the years following the Civil War.
Most Rosenwald Schools were sponsored by a local black church either through land or financial donations – or both – and usually adopted the church’s name. This school sat on four acres owned by adjacent Hopewell Baptist Church (seen above; now demolished), which donated land for the school. The property on which the school stnds is surrounded by the Sumter National Forest Long Cane Ranger District.
Hopewell was built as a typical one-teacher school in accordance with Rosenwald’s “One-Teacher Community School Plan.” Plans for all Rosenwald Schools, regardless of size, called for large windows and an orientation that allowed for maximum light and ventilation. Though this building is small, there are actually three separate rooms within the structure: A large room used as the classroom and two smaller rooms, one of which is now a kitchen.
Hopewell Baptist Church
This historic Baptist church was founded in 1864 and provided a home for its African-American congregation for more than 150 years. From 1926 to 1954, the church sponsored the Hopewell School, one of just two Rosenwald Schools in McCormick County (the other of which has burned). Before then, an even more primitive school stood at this site, making Hopewell Church especially significant in the education of black children during an era in which there were no other opportunities.
(This image was taken the evening the church was torn down: January 17, 2019.)
Hopewell Baptist remained active until early 2018. That February, it merged with its sister church, Bethany Baptist (shown below), located just four miles away. The conjoined congregation now meets in Bethany’s sanctuary, a larger, brick building constructed in the twentieth century. Locals tell us that because Bethany’s churchyard had reached capacity, the old church at Hopewell was torn down to provide more room for burials. Bulldozers demolished the historic structure on January 17, 2019.
Click here to see a list of internments in the Hopewell churchyard.
Hopewell Rosenwald School
Hopewell School was one of two Rosenwald Schools built in McCormick County. The other school – Gilbert Rosenwald School – burned and is no longer extant. Today Hopewell School is owned and maintained by Bethany Baptist Church as a fellowship hall. Hopewell Rosenwald School is listed in the National Register:
The Hopewell Rosenwald School, built in 1926, is significant in the areas of education, African American heritage, and architecture. Hopewell is a One Teacher Community Plan school, embodying the distinctive architectural characteristics that fall under the guidelines set out by the Julius Rosenwald School Building Program from 1913 to 1932. Though it appears from the exterior to be a one room school house, inside are two smaller rooms and one large room. The larger space was reserved as the class room. Hopewell was built, along with one other Rosenwald school in McCormick County, at a cost of $400 per school. Hopewell is the only Rosenwald School remaining in the county.
Hopewell greatly impacted the education of rural McCormick County’s African American students from 1927 to 1954. By 1954, Hopewell’s enrollment dropped to only nine students as many of the African American families left the area for better opportunities. The school was then left for the benefit and use of the community. Because South Carolina’s white students and schools were afforded more, African American schools, especially in rural counties such as McCormick, were extremely important in the education they provided, the safe environment they gave, and the belief that if students studied and did their best, they could better their future and community. The history of Hopewell Rosenwald School shows its impact on McCormick County’s educational and black heritage landscape for just such provisions and aspirations.
More Pictures of Hopewell Baptist Church
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Hopewell School and Church Info
Address: 253 Hopewell Church Road, Clarks Hill, SC 29821
GPS Coordinates: 33.609805,-82.124517