Historical Marker #2270 in Sebree remembers that town's school for African American students, which was built in 1938.
Like many towns in immediate post-Civil War America, Sebree's existence was due to the railroads. Established in 1868, and named for railroad man and co-founder, Colonel E.G. Sebree, the town was founded on what became a branch line of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. Initially the town flourished. Railroad related businesses opened and stores started that served the needs of the increased population. Soon hotels, churches, and civic organizations sprang up, too.
During the first half of the twentieth century—before integration in Kentucky—most communities were racially divided. While whites and African Americans sometimes worked side by side, most aspects of life were experienced separately. For example, white families may have eaten in certain establishments that blacks were not allowed to enter, and most often the two races worshipped in separate churches. Schools, too, were racially segregated.
More than one hundred and fifty schools were constructed in Kentucky under the program initiated by Julius Rosenwald. These "Rosenwald Schools" operated in sixty-four Kentucky counties and their construction was funded in part from community in-kind donations of labor and materials between 1917 and 1932. There were two Rosenwald Schools in Webster County, one in Providence and one in Dixon.
Due to Rosenwald's death in 1932 and the onset of the Great Depression, funds for new schools were very limited for African American school construction in the 1930s. However, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal" did allocate some monies to be used for black school buildings. The African American community in Sebree received $6,500 of these funds to build a school in 1937, and the school was constructed the following year. The school building at Sebree was later deeded to the local American Legion post for a meeting space and named for a local veteran who was killed at Pearl Harbor.
When segregation ended in Kentucky in the 1950s and 1960s, many schools that were built for black students were either torn down or repurposed. Few of these schools remain today. However, the effect they had on the lives of those that studied in them has impacted generations of Kentuckians.