Annandale alumni look to restore original name of Topsail Elementary School

A group in Pender County is aiming to restore the name a school once had many years ago.

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A group in Pender County is aiming to restore the name a school once had many years ago.

James Hansley is an alumnus of Annandale School. Hansley along with other alumni, former teachers at the school, and members of the Brown Town, Topsail, Woodside, and Edgecomb communities are advocating for a change. They want Pender County Schools to restore the original name of Topsail Elementary School, which is Annandale School.

“To preserve the history of the African-American people in the area. It’s very important to us. For our young kids to be able to see what we did and how we came to,” Hansley said. “They came and took us out of our house and put us in their house. We don’t want the house back, we want the name back.”

Michael Garrison, one of the people working on the effort, says Annandale was built in 1955 as an equalization school for Black students following the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling. It was an eight-room school that cost $100,000 to construct. Annandale opened its doors in August of 1956.

“I started Annandale in 1956 in the third grade. It was such a glorious occasion to attend Annandale because there we had running water, we had a bathroom! We didn’t have this at home,” Annandale alumna Elizabeth Brock said.

Garrison says the school’s name changed to Topsail Elementary School around 1969 or 1970 for unknown reasons and students, teachers, and the community were not consulted before it was changed. As time has passed, the group feels they have little to no history remaining in Pender County.

“History is very important, and it builds knowledge and understanding. To preserve the history of the Annandale School and the history of black heritage of the coastal Hampstead area, we’re requesting the name of the school be restored back to Annandale,” Garrison wrote in a letter to the Pender County Board of Education.

“That’s where I first started teaching. All of my little grandchildren, great-grands, you know on and on and everybody else,” former teacher Glorious S. Leaven said. “We have nothing to show that we had a school or whatever.”

“The future Black generation should know the struggle and where we came from and know that what they have now is what the generation before them worked very hard for,” alumna Elizabeth Brock said.

The group advocating for the restoration of the name gathered at Island Creek Missionary Baptist Church on Wednesday evening to show their support for the cause. A petition they’ve been circulating has garnered more than 300 signatures. They first introduced the idea to the Pender County Board of Education in November, but the board has yet to make a decision. However, this community is persevering.

“I would encourage them to restore the name of Annandale, it’s very important. I would also let them know that we will not give up until that name is restored,” Annandale alumnus Collin Smith said.

The group plans to speak before the Pender County Board of Education at its meeting on April 12 at 6 pm.

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