Think back to a time when school buses and parent drop off/pick-up lines weren’t the norm when it came to transportation to gain your education. Walking to and from school was a very common occurrence for many generations especially in the more rural areas of a community. I know in the many versions of stories about walking to school it seems my grandparents walked uphill both ways through all types of weather just to get to the closest school. I myself walked to school when I was younger but it seems something these younger generations can’t imagine.
One school in particular here in Liberty County had many students who walked up to 12 miles one way in order to gain an education. Dorchester Academy, located in Midway, has been a pillar in the community since its establishment in 1872. Earlier education was established by Williams Golden, a freed slave, in 1866 but it wasn’t until 1872 when the academy saw a greater success. Funds provided by the American Missionary Association provided a new physical building and the ability to provide a wider range of subjects for its students.
Original Boys’ Dormitory provided by Dorchester Academy
By 1917, the fully-accredited high school had an enrollment of 300 students! Dorchester Academy was ahead of the times as it was the first school in Georgia to graduate a 12th grade class, whereas most schools stopped at 11th grade. The academic programs being completed at the school gained its classification as a Group 1 Georgia accredited high school which meant better quality equipment, buildings, a library, laboratory and even better teachers where three-fourths of the teachers had degrees. The high quality of education was very evident when the entire senior class of 1934 were accepted into college!!
Photo by Tammy Lee Bradley
Although academic learning ended for Dorchester Academy in 1940, the building continued to be a vital part of the African American community and continues to be vital today. Each year the Dorchester Improvement Association hosts an event called the Walk to Dorchester to celebrate the impact made by Dorchester Academy and the lives of everyone involved with the school. It gives members of the community and visitors alike the opportunity to take the same path and travel the way many students did when attending the academy. A 9-mile walk begins in Riceboro and brings participants to the school yard. This incredible event brings together people from all walks of life and helps us to look back at the past while still moving forward.
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