WEST PLAINS, Mo. — A school still standing before segregation will be getting a new life.
Lincoln School was recently purchased by Crockett and Tonya Oaks.
Crockett, a West Plains native says education options were limited for African-American children before schools could integrate.
“[Lincoln School] was a place created for segregation,” Crockett said. “It was from first grade through the eighth grade. After eighth grade, the kids would have to go to other locations to go to school. Like, for instance, my aunts went to Kansas City. Some of the kids went and got educated in Springfield or Jonesboro.”
The Oaks purchased the building from the City of West Plains, and they plan on fixing it up and using it for a plethora of events.
“We’re looking at other cultural events, to acknowledge other cultures, to also acknowledge those folks that are here in the Ozarks,” Tonya Oaks said. Get a little bit of Ozarks history. We’ll also do hopefully some podcasts here. We’ll have guest speakers that’ll come in and talk on various topics, whether it’s something Ozarks-related or something internationally news-related that might be of interest to the community.”
The two plan on investing in the one-classroom schoolhouse from the 1920s, but are looking to raise funds to help with restoration efforts.
“We believe it’s important for the community to have equity in this facility so that it can survive well beyond Tonya and I,” Crockett said.
For the Oaks family, it makes sense to rebuild history in West Plains, especially after being part of it.
“My aunt was the first African-American to graduate from West Plains High School,” Crockett added. “I think that once we come out on the other side, the community will have a cultural center that will be here for the ages and here for their use of it.”The family tells OzarksFirsts that fundraising opportunities have begun online at LincolnSchoolProject.com and they hope to be open by February 2024.