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Historic African American schoolhouse-turned-museum in need of new roof

Posted at 12:20 AM, Feb 05, 2020

HARVEYSBURG, Ohio — The Elizabeth Harvey First Free Black School was built in 1831, three decades before the end of slavery, to ensure black children in rural Ohio could receive an education. The Harveysburg Community Historical Society has fought hard for nearly 200 years to keep it standing — but now, the group needs help affording crucial repairs.

Every relic in the one-room schoolhouse-turned-museum tells the story of the past.

"This Bible was from one of the students that went to school here," said Lucy McCarren, Harveysburg Community Historical Society treasurer. "Education was a way to freedom, and it still is for everyone."

Ninety-three-year-old McCarren is one of the people trying to keep the history of the building alive for future generations.

"I think it's a good thing for the community," McCarren said.

In order for the building's story to see its next chapter, the historical society needs help. The structure's aging roof needs to be replaced. Because the property is on the National Register of Historic Places, all construction needs to meet certain standards.

"It's going to take about $17,000 to put the (right) kind of roof on," McCarren said. "We're hoping to be able to make it look like the shingles, but also make it so that the squirrels can't break into it anymore. It would be more substantial and last much longer, too."

Long enough for the lessons taught in the schoolhouse to continue for decades to come.

"I think it shows the world that the people in Ohio, in Harveysburg, were anxious for the black people to come North and be free," McCarren said. "That means a lot to me because my way of thinking is all humanity is equal, no matter their race or nationality. We're all human beings."

The historical society's members hope to have the money to replace the roof by summer. Anyone interested in donating can do so via their GoFundMe.