A sign will be dedicated in front of the John S. Cobb School at 1 p.m. Saturday on the former school site, at the corner of Merriwether and Ellis streets. Speakers will include Alyssa Lage from the Historic Preservation Commission, Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger and Linda Cobb, granddaughter of John S. Cobb. Former Cobb School students will also hold their annual reunion at 6 p.m. at the Cape Girardeau American Legion hall. Lage said the Historic Preservation Commission is hoping this dedication is one of many future events recognizing African-American history in the area.
"We've been working with the Cobb School alumni for more than a year to get this done. It's important to them, and it's important to our community," Lage said. "Often, when we go back through the history of our area, we forget or omit things like this. But we have a duty to the community to recognize all parts of our history."
Segregation was a harsh reality in America after the Civil War. In Cape Girardeau, the Lincoln School was opened in 1890 for African-Americans. Over the next 60 years the school evolved, building a gymnasium (which is now the Southeast Missouri Crime Lab) and changing its name to the John S. Cobb School in 1925 following the death of Cobb, a former slave and one of the city's first black educators.
Fire shut the school's doors in 1953, and, with a landmark desegregation ruling by the Supreme Court in 1954, a new African-American school was not built. Instead, black students were sent to other schools in the community as Cape Girardeau became one of the first cities in Missouri to desegregate.
Merriwether and Ellis streets, Cape Girardeau MO