First black school in Johnston lives quiet life on Fourth Street

One of the most important buildings in Johnston County is a rental house today but was once part of a wounded nation’s first step out of slavery and war.

On Fourth Street, two doors down from First Missionary Baptist Church in Smithfield, a long gray house with a screened-in front porch began its life more than 150 years ago as the first school for freed slaves in Johnston County. That it stands today is a perhaps miracle, as the building is believed to be the only remaining Freedman’s Bureau school in North Carolina.

Smithfield was an occupied town during Reconstruction, Johnston County Heritage Center director Todd Johnson said, and while Union troops were still on the streets, a national effort was under way to educate the free black men and women in the South. The American Missionary Association was one of the groups leading the effort.

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(News & Observer, 2/16/2017)