Albion Interactive History / Events / 1917

Albion Interactive History

Albion Interactive History / Events / Public Schools

1917, Black immigration from Pensacola, Florida

Race relations was a primary problem in the late 1910s. During 1916 and 1917, the Albion Malleable Iron Company had recruited black workers from Pensacola, Florida, and other southern communities to work in the foundry. Since many of the new workers were supplied with company housing in the vicinity of the Malleable, most of the students from these families would have attended the West Ward School.

In her book, An Ethnic History of Albion, author Judy Powell writes of the origins of segregation of blacks in the vicinity of West Ward School.

By the spring and summer of 1917, after the men had become settled, they sent for their wives and children. The school board was unprepared for the large number of black children that came here. But the board together with the city council held special meetings to determine what type of education and what special arrangements would be made for the children. (Judy Powell, Ethnic History, 19)

Black students were allowed to attend other schools in Albion (with the exception of East Ward School) if they lived within the proper boundaries, but the classrooms at these schools were segregated. Black classes were frequently held in the basement.

Problems also existed for the children of Eastern European immigrants, who settled in the Austin Avenue area. A “west end” mentality developed, and children living in this section of town were looked down upon by those in the more affluent and established elite neighborhoods on the eastern side of the city.

Source: Frank Passic. A History of the Albion Public Schools. Albion, Michigan: E. Weil Publishing Services. 1991.