“Unconstitutional” 231 School Had Short History

Frow Chips, March/April, 2021, Greg Tucker, Rutherford County Historian

In 1962, eight years after the U. S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that segregated education was unconstitutional, the Rutherford County school system opened a new segregated school facility on U. S. Highway 231 South. The all black faculty taught black students from the Christiana area.

The first school for black children in the Christiana area was opened in 1890 on the east side of Miller Street in the Christiana community. Parents of the school children built the one-room building. The early school term was three months with concentration on “primer, counting and spelling.” In 1918 a second facility was built near the original site with two classrooms and a kitchen.

In 1947 the county built a new school for black children on the Rucker-Christiana Road north of Christiana (near the Johnson Road intersection). The original wood-frame structure was built with recycled WWII lumber. This frame facility was replaced in 1952 with a concrete building including four classrooms, auditorium with stage, kitchen and cafeteria, and several restrooms. The entire building was gas heated.

This relatively modern school facility was closed and the property sold in 1962. The students and faculty were moved to the new school on the Shelbyville Highway (U. S. 231 South). The new school was named simply “Two Thirty One School.” There were eight classrooms, a large auditorium, two offices, a teachers’ lounge, three restrooms, and a modern kitchen with cafeteria. Margaret Butler was the principal; the faculty was Felix Wade, Julia Butler, Marie Witherspoon and Willie Miller. Eighteen students were in the first high school graduating class in 1964.

The last graduating high school class was in 1966. When the school system became fully integrated in 1967, according to “A History of Rutherford County Schools” (RCHS 1986), the 231 School was renamed “Christiana Elementary” and served an integrated population in the lower grades. When the new Christiana Elementary School was opened in 1974, the original 231 facility was abandoned. The RCHS history notes that the building was thereafter vandalized and fire-damaged before the property was sold to private interests.

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