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Ballard Normal School (Macon, Ga.) | Amistad Research Center

Name: Ballard Normal School (Macon, Ga.)

Historical Note:

Ballard School was a combined primary secondary school for the freedmen.  It was established by the American Missionary Association in Macon, Georgia, in 1865.  By the twentieth century, it had become primarily a college preparatory and normal training secondary school.  In 1942, it became a public school, and in 1945 the American Missionary Association withdrew all of its financial support.

The Western Freedman's Aid Commission, in cooperation with the Bureau of Freedmen, Refugees, and Abandoned Lands, established at least three schools for six hundred freedmen in Macon, Georgia, by 1865. These schools were staffed primarily by local residents. The Commission transferred its work to the American Missionary Association.

Eratus Milo Cravath of the AMA arrived in Macon.  He established a teacher's home which became known as the Lincoln Home, and schools in four Black churches, which became known as Lincoln Free Schools Numbers One – Four.  The Rev. Hiram Eddy became the Association’s first resident chief agent in Macon.

In 1867, the AMA developed two smaller classes in an outbuilding in the Lincoln Home yard and in a room in the Freedmen's Hospital.  Lincoln Grammar School was developed in a small school house. The following year, the Association opened Lewis High School in the basement of the Lincoln Home.  The school was named for General John R. Lewis, Principal Freemen's Bureau official in Georgia.  The permanent Lewis School building was opened one month later.

The Public School Board of Macon designated Lewis High as the public school for Blacks and paid the teachers' salaries beginning in 1873. During that same year, Lewis turned its attention to the upper classes, particularly to the training of Normal students. In 1876, the school and chapel were destroyed by arson. Two years later, a new two-story brick building was opened using five thousand dollars of insurance money.

Christine Gilbert served as principal. From 1880-1882, followed by W. A. Hodge. The American Missionary Association built a wooden annex with two rooms for intermediate and primary classes. The school had become known as Lewis Normal Institute in 1885.

Livia A. Shae became principal in 1887. The school was renamed Ballard Normal School the following with the consent of General Lewis after the school received a gift from Stephen Ballard. A new Ballard Normal School building was completed at a cost of $14,000 in 1889, as well as a girls' dormitory at a cost of $7,500.

In 1890s and early 1900s saw a succession of principals: Julia B. Ford (1893), Francis T. Waters (1894), George C. Burrage (1895), and Frank B. Stevens (1909). Raymond G. Von Tobel became principal in 1911. The school moved to a new five-acre campus in 1916.  It was included as an accredited high school by the Georgia Department of Education in 1923.  During that year, 48 students graduated, which is the highest number of high school students to complete work at Ballard up to this time, and in 1924, high-school level work was emphasized more than before and became a four-year course.

The Southern Association of Colleges and High Schools gave Ballard an "A" rating in 1934. Raymond G. Von Tobel died in an automobile accident the following year, and Assistant principal Lewis Mounts became acting principal. In 1938, James A. Colston became the school's first African American principal.

Ballard became a public high school in 1942, with the American Missionary Association continuing to pay the salaries of Colston and two other teachers. Colston left the next year to become president of Bethune-Cookman College in Florida, and James Page was appointed as principal. Riago Martin became principal in 1944.  The American Missionary Association continued to pay his salary up to June, 1945.

In 1949, the local school board decided it did not need the Ballard property.  The American Missionary Association gave the school board the library, furniture, records, and equipment.  They now had an empty building to sell. Because the Ballard property was close to a predominantly African American residential section of Macon, the American Missionary Association sold the building for use as a community center in 1950.

Sources: American Missionary Association archives 1969 addendum

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