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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New Vision Youth Gets a "Swift" Lesson in Black History

"It's all about history, and it's all about preserving the past."

With that in mind, the New Vision Kids of Kingsport set off on a tour of the Price Public Community Center, which houses the Swift College Museum in Rogersville, Tennessee. The tour is part of the children's celebration of Black History Month. 56 children made the bus trip to Rogersville.

Click here to see a slideshow from Kingsport to Rogersville, touring the Price Public School-Swift Museum by the New Vision Youth.

The Price Public School's modern-day building was built in 1923, near to the Swift Memorial Junior College. The School was placed on the National Historical Register in 1988. One of the schoolrooms is devoted to a museum of Swift College and Price School memorabilia. The school closed in 1963 and its students integrated into the Hawkins County school system.

Swift College was founded in 1883 by the Rev. Dr. William Henderson Franklin of Knoxville, the first black graduate of Maryville College. The school was named for the Rev. Elijah E. Swift, president of Board of Missions for Freedmen. Swift College served the area until 1955, but remained open as a public high school for African-Americans. The lovely administration building has been torn down, but a number of the buildings remain and are used as offices by the Hawkins County Board of Education.

Leading the tour was Stella Gudger, Executive Director of the Price Public Community Center and Swift Museum. The New Vision Kids toured the grounds, listened to stories of the African-American students who gained a bountiful education there, and how the efforts to restore the heritage of the schools resulted in a multi-purpose building, borne of the past and ready for its future role of remembering history.

The children marveled at the artifacts in the Swift Museum, spotlighting more than 80 years of history, as the tiny Price Public School earned its place in the African-American education roll books in the small town of Rogersville, and Swift College brought black people from all over the country to better their own educations.

The tour came with good news.

"We finally raised 40,000 dollars and we're going to have an upgrade and bring the community center and museum up to a 21st century design level," says Mrs. Gudger. "We're going to have our open house on March 11th, and we invite everybody to come."

"It's been our vision, and the vision has come true," she says. "We're really thrilled. It's not for our benefit, but for the whole community. There are so many people who went to Swift College, Morristown, Greeneville, Kingsport, Virginia, all over.. The Alumni Association will be very pleased."

"If those memories are lost, they're gone forever. It's important to remember history, from generation to generation that these memories not be lost."

The Price Public Community Center and Swift Museum is located at 203 Spring Street in Rogersville, Tennessee (2 blocks from U.S. Highway 11-W). For mail correspondence, the zip is 37857. To reach the center, call 423-921-3888, or email:

Tours like the one the New Vision Youth took are available, free to the public.

The hours the center is open are Monday through Friday, 10 A-M to 2 P-M and Saturday, 12 Noon to 2 P-M.

The large assembly room can be rented out for parties, receptions, reunions and meetings, simply by making a reservation.

Stella Gudger, Executive Director, Price Public Community Center and Swift Museum
Norma Bowers, Price-Swift Museum Board Member
Alberta Gardner, Volunteer
Rodney Bradley, Price-Swift Museum Board Member