In Kilgore, Texas, demolition work is set to begin on C.B. Dansby High School that was built around 1930. The former all-black school was closed by desegregation in 1969. Today, it stands as a blighted, asbestos-filled property. Alumni leader De’Lores Arline attended the school before it closed. She recalls singing the school song for the last time, and how her classmates put on a brave front when transferring to Kilgore High School during the civil rights era.
“It was a really, really sad, sad day, because we loved our school, and loved our teachers. Plus, we were facing going to the unknown," Arline recalled. "There had been some students who had already started attending the all-white school through freedom of choice. We had gotten reports. We knew that some had had a hard time and had come back because they were not well received.”
Kilgore city manager Scott Sellers said the city received a state Neighborhood Stabilization program grant to raze the school. He hopes that once the property is cleared that it will be snapped up for redevelopment and returned to the tax rolls.
“Subsurface, the land is good. It’s adjacent to a creek, and some good subdivisions surround it. We believe a developer would have a great piece of property close to the city," Sellers said.
The city is saving some of the bricks from the demolition for the creation of a future memorial on the site, according to Sellers. A ceremony is set for July 23 at 10 a.m. to remember the teachers, staff and alumni. Arline said it was -- and is -- a tight-knit community.
"It served a great purpose. It was a great school, great teachers. Many of those teachers still live in our community, and a lot of them are ailing," Arline said. "We don’t want them to not be honored and remembered – that so more than the building itself.”
The $203,000 grant will cover the entire cost of asbestos remediation and demolition of C.B. Dansby High School that sits on five acres.