If you had been an African-American student standing here around 1950, you would have been facing your school, the Hawkins School (above). This school was part of a continuum of African-American education that began with the Civil War and ended with school integration in 1955.
Along with freedom the Civil War brought the need - and the previously denied opportunity - for education. Schools like the Hawkins School met that need and provided that opportunity.
Prominent Americans who attended Fort Scott's African-American schools included George Washington Carver and Gordon Alexander Parks. Born a slave, Carver gained renown as an artist, educator, chemist, agronomist, and botanist. Parks, an author, composer, photographer, and poet, was acclaimed Kansan of the Year in 1985 and received the National Medal of Arts in 1988. Carver attended the Fort Scott Colored School in 1878-79; Parks attended 2nd Plaza School in the 1920s.
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Between 1865 and 1955, four African-American schools (map, above) were located on or adjacent to land which now comprises Fort Scott National Historic Site. The last of the four, called the 2nd Plaza School (left), stood directly in front of you. To honor Professor Ernest Hawkins, who served here for many years, the school was renamed the Hawkins School in 1946.
"Look Sharp, Be Sharp, Be Somebody"
Professor Ernest Hawkins
Born in Fort Scott in 1875, Ernest Hawkins devoted his life to African-American education. He was a part of Fort Scott's African-American schools for 65 years, first as a student, then a teacher, then principal. Professor Hawkins encouraged his students to "look sharp, be sharp, be somebody."