Faith and Family: Poplar Hill Museum in Fayette set to grand open on Oct. 6

Published 11:44 pm Thursday, September 27, 2018


FAYETTE — Alumnae from across the nation are expected to attend Saturday’s grand opening of the Poplar Hill Museum of African American Culture, a restored African American schoolhouse.

The grand opening will be at the neighboring Poplar Hill African Methodist Episcopal Church, 3080 Poplar Hill Road, Fayette, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Oct. 6.

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The two-room schoolhouse was founded in approximately 1880. Lessons began in the Poplar Hill AME Church before a schoolroom was built. When the structure burned, another was built in approximately 1923. The approximately 897 square-feet room accommodated students in first through eighth grades.

The school is on the National Register of Historic Places and is identified as a Mississippi Landmark.

Roosevelt Cruel, president and founder of the museum, was born in 1950 and attended the school from age 6 until was closed for consolidating Jefferson County schools, which he estimated to be in approximately 1963 or 1965.

Cruel said he remembers outdoor lavatories at the schoolhouse and gathering firewood to heat the school. He said seeing the schoolhouse restored to near its original state meant a lot to him.

“It was overwhelming,” Cruel said. “I’ve seen it sitting there all these years and deteriorating and to get it back to where it is now, I don’t have the words to express what it means to me.”

The restoration process is approximately 85 percent complete with amenities such as a parking lot and restrooms needing a grant for completion, Cruel said.

“We are able to open a part of what we want to bring to the county and state to show,” Cruel said. “It’s been a challenge, but it’s been a rewarding challenge to get to this point.”

Cruel said former students of the school from as far away as Illinois and California have expressed interest in visiting the museum. He also said the school represents the history and accomplishments of the African American community.

“I hope it will give some understanding to the community, how blacks lived back in those days and what they had to endure for education. It also should say it doesn’t matter where you come from but where you go in life,” Cruel said.

The Oct. 6 grand opening ceremony will include remarks by Antoinette Stewart, administrator for the abandoned cemetery located on the Poplar Hill plantation; Sen. Albert Butler; Mingo Tingle of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History; Fayette Mayor Londell Eanochs; County of Jefferson representative Delores Frye; Roosevelt and Shirley Cruel; Rev. Tracy Collins; and Louise C. Coleman.

Hours for the museum have not been set, but appointments for viewing may be made by calling 601-786-1301, Cruel said.