Welcome to what is now the George Wilson Community Center. This building was originally built in 1922 as a schoolhouse to replace the building on Cleveland Avenue. It was named the New London Avenue Colored School and is the longest standing testament to this community’s dedication to education. This school, composed of 4 classrooms and a cafeteria, was the only primary school available for black students in the area. All the children of the neighborhood from 1922 until 1958 were educated here through the 8th grade. In addition, this school has seen remarkable teachers in its time, such as Virginia Johnson and Odessa West. Alvin Hall attended the New London Avenue school:
“I went to New London Avenue School, and the books were basically the secondhand books that had four or five students names in them before we got them, but they were in pretty good condition, and the teachers seemed to stay with us, and we had first and second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade, and at eighth grade you graduated and caught the bus to ride to Howard in Wilmington.”
Not only did the New London Avenue School provide education for the community, but also the building and surrounding area functioned as a meeting place for the kids of the community. All the neighborhood kids used to meet up here to play games and sports, even after the school was shut down and boarded up. Pepper recalls that,
“We used to go up there and play on the swings and stuff like that. It was always boarded up, cause we were in the old school house, and we used to hear stories about there. They used to say there used to be a — used to say there was a ghost in here. Yeah, that’s what they said ‘cause they said it caught on fire one time and the janitor burned up in there. I think that was the story that the old guys made up so us young kids wouldn’t go in the building, an old building that was abandoned...."
From 1922 until 1958, all black students in the area attended this school through 8th grade. But once they graduated from 8th grade, no high school in Newark would accept them. The closest high school for black students was Howard High School, now Howard Technical School, in Wilmington. Listen as Bobby Saunders tells Denise Hayman in 1988 about going to Howard in the 1920s,
“I live in a town of Newark where Black and Whites don’t mix. At that time we had Black history that was passed on by word of mouth… we had a Black high school in Wilmington we couldn't go to the school here because it wasn't integrated. I had to take a train from Newark old Station on Elkton Rd. to Wilmington to attend Howard high School…we had to walk 20 blocks from the station in Wilmington to Howard High…"
Bobby Saunders remembers the community was so invested in seeing its youngest generation receive a decent education that they organized carpools and bus services for high school students to get to and from Wilmington. No city-sponsored bus services reached the New London Road Community, so it was left to them to find their own way to a high school degree. Thanks to the efforts of many community members and their families, a high percentage of students from this neighborhood graduated from high school, and many of those students went on to college and graduate schools.
In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown versus the Board of Education that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional, meaning that schools had to be desegregated. Howard High School, where all the high school students in the New London Road Community attended, was one of the five named high schools in the suit. As a result, Delaware was one of the first states to experience desegregation. After the ruling, students from the New London Road Community attended Newark High School, with their white neighbors. In 1958 the New London Avenue Colored School was shut down.
Today, this building houses the George Wilson Community Center. The swimming pool, which was built in the 1970’s, is open to the public, and a variety of classes, camps and activities are held here everyday. As you walk south on New London Road towards Corbit Street, listen to segment 9: Education and Businesses.