1954 - 1970
In 1868 the South Carolina General Assembly enacted legislation providing for a state superintendent of education, who would be elected biennially, and who would have general supervision of the state's public school system. The act by the General Assembly wisely put the people of Greenville County in control by providing that a commissioner of education in each county be elected by popular vote, along with a local board of trustees for each school district.
The people of Greenville County elected a county commissioner of education biennially until 1896 following the action of the general assembly. It is interesting to note that the city of Greenville did not establish a free school system until 18 years after the General Assembly enacted legislation providing for a state superintendent of education. Mr. A. D. Asbury, in his paper, "The Little Red Schoolhouse," dated March, 1961 stated that the first public school system was established in Greenville on May 3, 1866, with school board compased of five members, one of who was black (S. S. Thompson).
It might also be interesting to mention briefly that some two years before the action by the General Assembly, black people in Greenville County had begun efforts to establish the first private school for their children. Their efforts were led by a black man from the lower part of the state named Charles Hopkins. An ordained minister, Hopkins raised $300 from among black and white citizens of Greenville County and purchased a storehouse that was no longer needed by the army. He later took a three-year lease on land that was located on the outskirts of Greenville and build a schoolhouse there from materials taken from the abandoned army storehouse. (Asa H. Gordon, Sketches of Negro Life and History in South Carolina, Univ. of SC Press, 1971, p. 103).
Correspondence between Hopkins and various officers of the Freedmen's Bureau indicated that the school's enrollment eventually reached 300, and the school's staff grew to five, including two white teachers. The school started by the black man is believed to have become Allen Elementary School and was taken in the city school system.
Annual reports of the state superintendent of education in 1870 Greenville County had seventy-eight free common schools with an enrollment of 2,060 white pupils and 597 'colored' pupils. By 1878 the county reported 136 schools with an enrollment of 5,274 white and 2,697 black pupils.
- the previous information came from Dr. J. Floyd Hall's Highlights of Education in Greenville County: 1811 to 1975.
Upon the recommendation of the John's Survey that a study be made of school facilities for the Greenville County and outlying attendance areas of surrounding counties, Englehardt, Englehardt and Leggett was employed to make a study of the building needs to accommodate the school district. This study recommended that two high schools for Negroes be established outside the city of Greenville and that one would serve the lower part of our county. It was recommended that this school be located in about the center of the area which it would serve.
The administrative staff and board of education Greenville County began to seek a location for a high school in the lower part of the county. After considering several locations, the present site was selected because of the utilities that were available on what is known as the "Golden Strip." The school was located off State Highway 14 between Simpsonville and Fountain Inn. The school was named by the County Board of Education for the late Joseph Raleigh Bryson, who served as a United States Representative from this Congressional District from January 3, 1939 to March 10, 1953.
Bryson High School opened its doors for the first time on Sept. 3, 1954. Five hundred and sixty- seven students were enrolled in grades seven through twelve. This enrollment represented a combination of five small inadequate high schools that served this area. Growth in student population made it necessary in the fall of 1958 to have only grades eight through twelve. The feeder schools were Bryson, Burgess, Laurel Creek, and Morton.
In 1954 in Greenville County, there were four high schools serving the African American population. Lincoln High served the upper part of Greenville County, Sterling and Washington High served the city of Greenville, and Bryson served the lower part of the county. Beck High School was later added in 1966 to serve the Fieldcrest and Nicholtown areas.
Bryson High School was built fully
equipped with a gymnasium, auditorium, administrative area, vocational,
agriculture and industrial education shops, three home economics laboratories,
two science laboratories, music room, cafeteria, business laboratory and
library with modern furniture and equipment in all these areas. The
adoped mascot was the Hurricane and the school's newpaper was officially
named The Hurricane Times.
(Tune: "Sweet Genevieve")
Dear Bryson High, Our Bryson High
Oh Bryson High, Dear Bryson High,
The late Dr. A.M. Anderson served as principal during the entire existence of Bryson High School's 14.5 year history. Known by many names: "Chief", "Prof", "Mr. or Dr. Anderson", this man was the school's leader. He inspired his students and his teachers to become the best that they could. During his tenure, students were encouraged to think of high school as a stepping stone to greater heights. The evidence can be found in the many directions students took in positions of leadership in their diverse fields. Not only have Brysonians become good citizens, but also teachers, preachers, musicians, medical doctors, educational doctors, lawyers, business professionals, service men and women, and areas beyond. Much of this success can be attributed to the inspiration of Dr. Anderson. When integration of schools occurred in 1970, the teachers from Bryson who were placed in other schools were most often the holders of Master's degrees in the schools to which they were assigned. From Bryson High eight teachers became principals, five became assistant principals, one became Associate Superintendent for Greenville Country Schools and one became State Supervisor of Librarians. All of these person give credit to Dr. Anderson for inspiring them to a professionalism that caused their promotions.
The school was staffed with qualify educators, who were dedicated to their profession. This all Black school represented an outstanding part of the Fountain Inn and surrounding Black communities. Graduating over 1,000 students, instilling in them self motivation, a will to succeed, and a challenge to improve upon the quality of life for all Black Americans. Making Bryson High School a proud chapter of the Black American History.
As a direct result of the 1960s civil rights movement for a racial equality and a right to a quality education in this country, the United States Supreme Court in the winter of 1969 ruled that "Segregation of public schools in unconstitutional" and "Separate but Equal" does not work. The Supreme Court ordered that all public schools be desegregated in this country, and the school district of Greenville County, South Carolina be the first to comply with this court order, with implementation beginning by spring of 1970.
In the spring of 1970 Bryson High School ceased to exist as a high school. All students enrolled except for 9th and 12th graders were transferred to Hillcrest of Woodmont High, both tradition all white high schools. The seniors were allowed to graduate from Bryson, making the class of 1970 the last graduating class of Bryson High School.
With emphases on high standards of education, social behavior and a belief in God as the creator was a positive image set and executed by parents and faculty, giving Bryson High Alumni Family a proud tradition of winning during school years and after graduation. The success of these efforts are given proof by the outstanding accomplishments of individual alumnus in their various professions, as they continue to achieve goals that were inspired at Bryson High. Today Bryson remains a s a middle school, but the Joseph R. Bryson High School Hurricane spirit will remain forever carved in the page of a proud history.
Materials from this article reprinted from the 1993 Bryson
Alumni Association Souvenir
Booklet. Much appreciation is given to the Greenville Cultural Exchange Center for
providing text, pictures and most of all, - guidance in this historical project.
Greenville Historical Schools List
Please email additional information or comments to the Bryson High School Web History Project.
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