“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”
Those words from Carter G. Woodson, one of the first scholars to study African-American history, rang aloud at Dutch Fork Elementary School as fifth grade students posed questions to a panel of former Richlex School students. The panelists included James and Sarah Washington, Willie Harden, Hattie Metze and Pat Reeves.
Richlex School, now known as Dutch Fork Elementary School, was established in 1953 as a school for African-American children in Richland and Lexington Counties. From 1953 to 1958, 530 African-American students received high school diplomas and an additional 603 students received elementary and high school instruction. In 1968, the dual school system structure was abolished as schools were integrated.
Students in the “Fox Cub News Crew” took turns asking panelists historical questions about Richlex School and their experiences. The first question regarded Richlex School and what it meant to the community.
“Richlex gave educational opportunities to African-American students that they did not have before,” James said. “We had five communities that were bussed to Richlex and it meant so much to us that this was a place where we could go to learn and better ourselves every day.”
Another question posed to the panel was “What would life be like if you didn’t have the opportunity to attend Richlex?” Harden responded, “I wouldn’t have had the background or the basic skills to know that in life we have to work hard to get to where we want to go. We appreciated every opportunity given to us. It helped us to understand that nothing was going to be handed to us. Richlex taught us how to work hard and have self-respect for ourselves.”
The highlight of the program came when the panelists shared what their recess and lunches were like while attending Richlex. When Dutch Fork Elementary students heard that the panelists had two different recess periods and ice cream and popcorn were offered, they were amazed.
“You could smell the food down the hallways at 9:30 in the morning and it immediately had our stomachs growling,” Metze said with a smile. “Those ladies that cooked for us were like grandparents cooking for you. It was delicious.”
Dutch Fork Elementary School principal Julius Scott has been a proponent of keeping the Richlex legacy alive.
“Richlex has a significant, historical context not only for our community, but our city as a whole,” Scott said. “We are so excited that we can bridge the gap between their historical school and Dutch Fork Elementary. I am so impressed with our fifth graders and their preparation for today in studying the history behind Richlex so that they could ask important questions to our panelists who were so gracious to attend.”