Black Family Purchases Historic Lincoln School In Missouri To Transform A Segregated Past Into An Inclusive Future
The Oaks family of West Plains, Missouri, has acquired the historic Lincoln School, with plans to transform it into a vibrant cultural center.
In a remarkable effort to preserve history and foster cultural exchange, the Oaks family of West Plains, MO, has acquired the historic Lincoln School, once a symbol of segregation, with plans to transform it into a vibrant cultural center, Essence reported.
Lincoln School holds significant historical importance as the educational institution that served Black students in West Plains before the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education deemed segregation unlawful, leading to the school’s closure.
Crockett Oaks, Jr., the last living alumnus of Lincoln School, has a deeply personal connection to the institution. His father, a descendant of slaves, migrated to Missouri from Arkansas in the 1920s, seeking employment. Now, decades later, Oaks Jr.’s son and daughter-in-law, Crockett, and Tonya Oaks III, have purchased the school from the City of West Plains, embarking on a mission to restore and repurpose it.
In an interview with Essence, Oaks Jr. expressed pride in his son’s commitment to preserving the school’s legacy, stating, “Lincoln School is worthy of preservation; its rich history should continue to serve as a source of remembrance for all.”
Oaks III, the founder of the Lincoln School Project, envisions the cultural center becoming a hub for dialogue and exchange. He believes that the community will benefit from guest speakers covering a range of topics, particularly racial reconciliation. The project has gained momentum, with the hashtag #WeAreLincolnSchool capturing the essence of the community’s involvement and support.
Reflecting on the overwhelming response, Tonya Oaks, co-founder of the Lincoln School Project, shared, “The feedback that we have received gives us a clear signal of this project’s impact. Lincoln School reminds us of past wrongs, but most importantly, it provides us with a great opportunity to change the narrative.”
The Oaks family’s dedication extends beyond familial ties; they aim to ensure that the rich history of Black individuals in the Ozarks is not erased. As efforts to distort the past persist, preserving the original school takes on a broader significance—it’s about telling the authentic story of West Plains and preventing history from repeating itself.
“Lincoln School was founded through the lens of segregation,” noted Oaks III. “I think those remaining citizens who attended Lincoln School, and certainly those who were aware of Lincoln School’s use as a facility for Black folk, would be grateful and smile that now it’s providing education for all folk.”
In their pursuit of cultural restoration, the Oaks family is not only reclaiming a piece of their own history but also ensuring that Lincoln School becomes a beacon for inclusivity and understanding in West Plains.