MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Each and every month, we Celebrate Memphis. All August-long, we have been honoring our educators and the great work they do in our community. We caught up with Kingsbury Elementary School principal as he recently released a book called Early African American Schools in Memphis.
“I’m just a guy who loves reading about Memphis history,” said Wynn Earle Jr., who is just being modest.
Earle is Principal at Kingsbury Elementary School.
“We’re the Falcons and the ‘L’ stands for being a life-long learner,” said Earle.
He demonstrates that every day.
“When I was named principal here in 2015, I always wanted to know about the history of the schools. I started to compile that data,” said Earle.
He traced the history of schools back to the late 1800s.
“You can’t have a conversation about a city without talking about its schools,” said Earle.
He wrote the book, Early African American Schools in Memphis.
“The school district as you see it now has well over 100 schools. When you think about it, those early schools up until about 1926, there were only two schools that you could graduate - that African Americans could graduate from. Booker T. Washington was the first,” said Earle.
Other schools such as Douglass and Manassas High Schools were outside city limits.
“When you think about that, just having come from those few numbers to now students having an opportunity to participate in optional, career technology programs, and participating in creative and performing arts, it’s amazing,” said Earle.
It is also inspiring.
“It provides a nice comparison of what the school looked like then versus what the school looks like now. There are a lot of similarities,” said Earle. “Mentioning the names of those teachers, those administrators, that in some instances they’ve passed away over 100 years ago, and bringing those names back to life, telling their stories because they made it possible for us to do what we’re doing right now.”
They also were involved in the community by beautifying neighborhoods or taking part in local parades.
“Those things, yes they happen now, but those things started early on. Schools have always been at the heart of the community. I think that’s one thing that transcends time,” said Earle.
Time is so precious and worth every minute exploring.
“At some point in time, we’re not going to be here. We want to know what our legacy is. What is that legacy that we’re leaving? For me, I want to be that guy that tells stories of our schools,” said Earle, the guy who has not only created a legacy of his own but has reminded us of the legacies already left behind.
Earle’s book is available on Amazon.