Non-profit hopes to restore historic black school in Independence

Posted at 3:11 PM, May 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-30 18:28:09-04

The Truman Heritage chapter of Habitat for Humanity is hoping to raise $2.5 million dollars in order to renovate and restore the Young School in Independence.

The school, which is located at 505 North Dodgion, is a historic landmark.

Named after Hiram Young, who was born a slave and later became a successful businessman after moving to Independence in the 1850s, the Young school was the first all-black school west of the Mississippi River when it opened in 1874.

Hiram Young, a former slave, started the Young School in 1874.

"We intend to preserve as much as the historic fabric as possible,” said Christina Leakey, president, and CEO of Habitat For Humanity, Truman Heritage chapter.

The current uninhabited building was the second location for the school and was built in the 1930s. It’s been abandoned for roughly 30 years.

"The building was built in 1934. It was the second public school for black children in Independence,” said Leakey. “The original was built in 1874 by a man named Hiram Young who was a black gentleman and business owner who had bought his way out of slavery and raised funds to build a school building for the children in Independence."

Habitat for Humanity hopes to make the building a community center that will also be home to their offices which will offer free counseling for their home services. It will also include much of the remnants of the original school, including a classroom dedicated to Hiram Young, which will be restored to its original 1930s form.

"Continuing the theme of education, we intend to offer a series of education programs for the community that are really designed to help home owners be more successful but also families be more successful,” said Leakey.

We feel that restoration of this school, while outside our primary mission, is important to this community ... not just to preserve the heritage of the building but also to preserve our relationship with a community that really in many ways was overlooked,” she said.

Truman Heritage Habitat For Humanity serves all of Eastern Jackson County. The non-profit needs to raise $500,000 by the end of the year to qualify for an important grant that is vital to their fundraising. If funds are met, construction would start next summer and the building would open by early 2019.

Anyone seeking to make a donation to the Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity can do so here.