Illinois park honors segregated school’s history

SPARTA, Ill. (AP) — A park has opened in southern Illinois honoring a segregated school’s history in the community.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Saturday to commemorate the Sparta park built on the lot where Vernon School opened its doors for kindergarten to eighth grade students in 1912, The Southern Illinoisan reported.

The school served the black community until the early 1960s when the city’s K-8 school system fully integrated. The building was torn down in the 1990s. Since the early 2000s, a group of community organizers and Vernon School graduates have been trying to acquire the lot, which had been under city control.

Bobby Klausing, Sparta’s commissioner of public property, decided to take action in creating the park last year after the City Council was questioned about why it had taken nearly three years to get playground equipment installed at the site.

Klausing and about 20 to 30 community members installed the equipment in September. The park has been open to the public since October.

“We got it in quick,” he said. “They deserved it.”

Margaret Anderson, now nearly 90, has been a leader in acquiring the property. She said that while segregation was a dark time, it’s important to remember it and the park is a step toward preserving the history of her community.

Judge Richard Brown said Saturday that he’s thankful that “there is no need for the Vernon School any longer.” He said he thinks of the matter often as he helps deliver justice for the residents of Randolph County.

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