Lincoln Park Academy

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Alfred Hair and Several Highwaymen Attended LPA
Many Highwaymen attended Lincoln Park Academy. Founded in 1906, the first school was located in an old school supply building on North Eighth Street. In 1923, it had eight grades. The faculty was made up of five teachers, none having more than a high school education. Teaching materials were scarce.

The community had a strong desire to extend the  eight grades through high school, even though Florida, at the time, had no four-year high schools for Blacks south of Palatka. However, citizens believed so strongly in the power of education that they raised $2,600 to support the effort. In 1925, a $10,000 building with four classrooms was constructed. The school grew and, in spite of poor and unequal funding in relationship to white schools, Lincoln Park excelled both academically and in sports. In 1952, plans began for a new building at its current location, and in 1959, the school became fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

The last class to graduate was in 1970. After that, it became an eighth grade center. In the early 1980s, it became a magnet school, and in 1997 Lincoln Park Academy expanded to include a new high school.

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Today, Lincoln Park is a magnet school, a public/private school that is hard to get into.
It is academically rooted, offering Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and dual-enrollment. Newsweek has recognized the school for its successes, and in 2012, US News and World Report listed it as the 86th best high school in
the Country.

When Alfred Hair and some of the other Highwaymen attended the school, it may not have been on par with the white schools in Fort Pierce, but it had what many other black segregated schools across the South had: a caring and dedicated faculty. Teachers and administers were strict. They demanded, and received respectful behavior. Students were encouraged to excel in spite of roadblocks set in place by a racist society. Lincoln Park, like other Black schools in the region, was an integral part of the community. Teachers and parents worked together to ensure the best education possible. At this school, and in other black schools in the South before Brown versus the Board of Education (1954), African Americans had confidence in their ability to provide a good education for their children. What they wanted was a fair share of resources.

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Zanobia Jefferson taught art to several Florida Highwaymen at Lincoln Park Academy

In the early 1940s, before the Brown decision, Florida began making progress in fairly educating all students. Dr. D.E. Williams of the State Department of Education sponsored the Minimum Foundation Public School Program, which provided a minimal standard of funding for the construction of black and poor white schools. By 1952, Florida had built many new schools, spending an average of $73.03 on white students and $79.18 on black students. However, inequality for books, supplies, and equipment remained unequal with $195.01 per pupil being allocated for white students and only $153.24 for blacks.

When integration took place in Fort Pierce, as in many other cities across the state and in the South, violence broke out. Both blacks and whites resisted integration, and the transition was often painful. Many African American teachers and black principals lost their jobs, and the Lincoln Parks’s function as the epicenter of cultural life in the black community was diminished. After integration, the ethic of caring that was common to the schooling of black students was often replaced with hostility by whites.

Zora

Zora Neale Hurston, the famed folklorist and anthropologist, lived in Fort Pierce for the last ten years of her life. In February and March of 1958, she worked as an English teacher at Lincoln Park Academy, leaving her post unwillingly. The principal who dismissed her said it was because she didn’t have a teaching certificate. An application had been submitted but was not finalized because her college transcript from Barnard had not been received. Certification, it seemed, would have been a certainty. Hurston believed she was let go because she disagreed with the administration’s policy of corporal punishment, and some of her colleague’s jealousy of her success as a writer, according to Highwayman Jimmy Stovall.. But according to Hurston’s biographer, Virginia Lynn Moylan, Lincoln Park at the time was in the process of a self-evaluation in preparation for a visit from the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. Zora’s dismissal, therefore, was most likely due to the certification issue, and not for personal reasons or approaches she taught.

It is important to note that over the years, Lincoln Park Academy has served its students well, partly because it has adapted to the changing times. During the period that the Highwaymen were educated at the school, academics were stressed and students were taught to believe in their potential. Support systems were strong, and teachers and school administrators believed in the power of hard work and a good education. The Highwaymen took note of these lessons and confidently defied many of the obstacles that were placed in their way. They believed they could become artists at a time when such a thought might have otherwise been pure fantasy.