Raleigh church restores former school into historic site

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Raleigh church is working to restore a historical landmark to its former glory.

Juniper Level Missionary Baptist Church owns the Panther Branch Rosenwald School in Wake County.

Barbara Perry, sitting on the stoop of the building built in 1926, said ten members of her family learned to read and to write at the school.

"As difficult as it was for them to get an education, some of them went on to be college grads," Perry said.

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At the turn of the century, African Americans were given their right to vote on the requirement they could read and sign their name. But education in this then rural area of Wake County was limited.

"One of the greatest rights that we have is to be able to vote," said Pastor Jeffrey Robinson of Juniper Level Baptist Church, "And so this school allowed them to learn and allow them to go all the way from grade one to grade seven initially, then eventually to the eighth grade."

Many of the students were children of sharecroppers, so class centered around the crops.

The final class here came in 1956. The building turned to a community center, but in the late 1980s that center was closed. It's been empty since.
The historic site is expected to open to the public in November: a spot, potentially, for parents to take their kids as they continue to learn from home due to COVID-19.

"We want to go back to those same values of training and education, " said Pastor Robinson.

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The history at the building is rich, and its future is bright.

Perry said she knows that best. "African Americans do not realize this is their foundation. This is where education in this area started for us."

Restoration has been an expensive undertaking for the church--any monetary donations are greatly appreciated and can be made on the church's website by selecting either JLBC Alliance or Building Fund. Both are being utilized for the school.

The church also has a text to give number: 919-629-9704.

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