R.A. Hubbard School

R.A. Hubbard School/ Courtland Colored High School/ Central High School (1952)

12905 Jessie Jackson Parkway

Courtland Negro School

The North Alabama Baptist Academy's Principal R.A. Hubbard worked to incorporate the Academy into the Lawrence County public school system. He believed this would give them access to better funding and resources. By 1938, plans were in place for a new “colored high school in Courtland” that would be controlled and supported by the county. The Lawrence County Board of Education committed to paying teacher salaries if the African American community could secure land and raise funds for a new building. Hubbard reportedly led this effort, holding fundraisers at the school and speaking to different organizations, asking for donations on the school’s behalf. Educator May Bolden says, “He sold hot dogs and ‘pig ear’ sandwiches to students during the school day to raise money toward the debt. On weekends, school socials (dances) were held where he sold fish dinners.” Bolden adds, “He also planted cotton and vegetables on the land; crops were harvested by high school students.”

By 1939, Hubbard, his students, and the community had raised the funds needed to purchase five acres of land just north of the Frank Davis House and Academy campus, about a mile north of Courtland proper. The cost of the land was $750. It would be almost a decade before they could afford a building. This change eventually resulted in the name of the school changing from the North Alabama Baptist Academy to Courtland Negro School. It also gave Principal Hubbard the distinction of being the first African American principal in Lawrence County.

School in the Barracks

Community efforts led by Principal Hubbard continued throughout the 1940s to raise funds for a building on the newly acquired land in North Courtland, and in 1948, Hubbard purchased three decommissioned barracks from the Courtland Army Airfield and had them moved to the land and site where the present R.A. Hubbard High School sits today. According to oral tradition, members of the community helped move the frame barracks.

  • <p>Decommissioned U.S. Army Barracks in North Courtland </p>
  • <p>Inside the overcrowded barrack classrooms</p>

Courtland Colored High School: An Equalization School

Classes were held in the Army barracks from the late 1940s until 1952 when the new Courtland Colored High School building replaced them. A 1949 aerial shows the barracks arranged in a U-shape, and a photograph published by The Moulton Advertiser reveals severely overcrowded classrooms in the barracks with additional images showing the construction of the new school building underway in the foreground. It is not clear how much money was contributed by the Lawrence County School Board to the new structure. Though the community previously purchased the land and Hubbard raised funds for the barracks, the school board sought to provide a “separate but equal” facility and contributed to the modern structure. This was common practice at the time, often as a final effort to stave of integration. These schools would come to be known as equalization schools. Additionally, the gymnasium at Courtland Colored High School was built in 1964 using funds approved by Governor George Wallace’s administration under the same guise.

Principal Hubbard and his wife Nettie Hill Hubbard, also a teacher at the school, reportedly attended “seminars in Montgomery and Huntsville” for African American educators to learn what their schools were entitled to have. In fact, in 1950, Principal Hubbard was completing his master's thesis for the Alabama State College for Negroes in Montgomery (now ASU) entitled "A Comparative Study of Practices of Guidance of Accredited and Non-accredited Negro Public High Schools of Alabama." His dedication led to improvements for the Black community. In 1958, the community deeded land to the Department of Education and asked for additional classrooms. The building as it stands today at 12905 Jesse Jackson Parkway reflects these additions and alterations.

  • <p>Courtland Colored High School Under Construction c. 1950</p>
  • <p>The Moulton Advertiser - June 16, 1949</p>

Central High School

In 1961, the Lawrence County Board of Education insisted that Courtland Colored High School change its name, as they felt it was too confusing for vendors to have accounts at both Courtland High School and Courtland Colored High School. Principal Hubbard reluctantly agreed, but insisted they be able to keep the initials “CHS,” so that existing monogrammed equipment and uniforms could still be used. From then on, the African American high school in Courtland became known as Central High School. The school’s mascot was a panther, and its colors were green and gold

Integration and Honoring R.A. Hubbard's Legacy

Though the 1954 court case known as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka made public school segregation unconstitutional, it was not until the late 1960s and early 1970s that desegregation was realized in many southern towns. For Courtland and North Courtland, that desegregation order came in the fall of 1970. Central High School then closed, and its building became home to a racially integrated Courtland Elementary. Following years of population decline, in 2004, the elementary and high schools merged and became R.A. Hubbard School, a name the North Courtland community fought to keep in honor of the renowned and beloved educator. Today, the building is once again the area high school.

  • <p>Principal Richard A. Hubbard in 1961</p>

Architecture of an Equalization School

R.A. Hubbard School was designed c. 1950 in a modest International Style by architect Allen Northington of Northington, Smith, and Kranert of nearby Florence.

The International Style was commonly used on institutional buildings such as schools during this time period. Elements of the style as seen on the oldest sections of the school include horizontal lines on a simple rectilinear form with a lack of nonessential ornamentation. This minimalist style evolved out of the Bauhaus movement in western Europe in the 1920s and 1930s and prioritized function over style.

Northington also designed the Lawrence County High School building and worked on the Lawrence County Hospital design.