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Monday, March 5, 2007

The Only Place In The Tri-Cities Where You Will Still Find The Word "COLORED" On A Public Sign

Most people riding through downtown Johnson City, Tennessee going east on one-way Main Street. probably go right past the little brick church on the left, just before you get to the Johnson City Press newspaper building. It has been at least a generation since the word "colored" appeared on a public sign, but this one remembers a place where African-American children received a quality education, despite the overriding feeling of the time. The building marked by the sign is well over a hundred years old, built back in a time of racial segregation and separatism. African-American citizens of Johnson City realized that their children needed a place of learning, and since the local government provided none, they decided to surround the children with learning that had a church background.

The historical marker from the Tennessee Historical Commission that notes the establishment reads thusly:

"This 1889 structure, originally the Colored Christian Church, now West Main Street Christian Church, was also Johnson City's second school building (1889-1891) for colored children. It is the oldest church building and school building still standing in the city. Hezikiah B. Hankel, who founded the church, ca 1869, was a leader in establishing the city's earliest African-American schools. William Wolfe was principal (1888-1907) of the school in four different locations."