Beach High School ties to emancipation of slaves

Beach High School ties to emancipation of slaves
Alfred Ely Beach High School
Savannah sit-ins during late 50s/early 60s (Source: Savannah Morning News)
Savannah sit-ins during late 50s/early 60s (Source: Savannah Morning News)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Unlike any other school in Chatham County, Alfred Ely Beach High School's history has direct ties to the emancipation of slaves.

Beach High School has a history spanning 151 years. In 1867, Alfred Ely Beach, the editor of the Scientific American donated thousands of dollars to the Freedmen's Bureau to start a school to train newly freed slaves in the Savannah area.

As a tribute to Mr. Beach, the school was named Beach Institute. The present-day Beach High School interim principal Dr. Lisa Linton tells WTOC current students learn about Mr. Beach in class.

"So we make it a focus point to make sure our students understand who Mr. Beach was and why it's important that they understand who that is and the history of this school. We celebrated 151 years and we always stress the fact that we're standing on the shoulders of giants," says Linton.

However, the school's history wasn't always passed down. Walter Simmons graduated from Beach High School in 1946. Simmons says when he was a student he had no idea why his high school was named Beach.

"I don't recall ever learning anything about Beach. I really don't. We operated in the shadows of segregation. Beach High School was woefully inadequate," says Simmons.

Simmons says the teachers were spectacular, creative, resourceful and pushed them hard.

"More than just a school, we were a family and we knew we were underdogs and we had to pull together and be together to get anything going," said Simmons.

Fast forward to the late 1950's when the Civil Rights Movement is on the upswing nationwide. Richard Shinhoster is a business owner, Vice President of the Savannah NAACP, and a 1960 graduate of Beach High School. His classmates participated in sit-ins, wade-ins, marches and more to fight for equality.

"Beach High School in 1960 was 100 percent black as the school system in Savannah was segregated. Shortly after some of these activities, we saw the integration of the school system," Shinhoster said.

Beach Institute became Beach Continuation School, which morphed into Beach-Cuyler then Beach Adult Education Center and is currently Beach High School.

"It has stood the test of time. We have gone through as a society, since 1867, a lot, and through all of that this school, this institution, is still in existence," Linton said.

The Beach High School Bulldogs proudly display pictures of all past principals in the school's foyer.

"People who have gone on from that school and made a difference in Savannah, in the state of Georgia, across the U.S, and even internationally," Shinhoster said.

Beach High School has and continues to leave a mark on Savannah and beyond.

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