Why do they call it that? The school that wouldn't quit | News
This school was burned to the ground just days after it opened. But the teachers wouldn't quit, and the rebuilt school has been running for more than 100 years.
Wednesday marks the anniversary of one of the most important moments in the history of American schools.
Sixty years ago, the first judges ruled on Brown v. Board of Education. The case would eventually wipe out segregation and end teaching black and white students separately.
But back in Tampa's earliest days, teaching African-American kids wasn't just separate -- it was incredibly dangerous. This school's example is especially disturbing.
Why do they call it St. Peter Claver Catholic School?
If you like stuff's that's old school, it does not get much older than this school.
Tampa's St. Peter Claver is one of Florida's oldest Catholic schools and the oldest built to teach African-American children.
Founded in 1894, it continues to serve students today. But this historic dream almost died just ten days after it began.
"When the first building came up, it was burnt down," said Sister Maria Goretti Babatunde, the latest in a long line of nuns -- black and white -- to watch over this school.
"And on the building they had an inscription that said this building was burnt down, not because we have anything against the Catholic Church," she said, quoting the arsonists' note.
"It was just because we cannot afford to have a school that would educate negros in our neighborhood.
"But the priests and the nuns were relentless. Right after they got the message, they didn't even get upset. They just decided to do exactly needed to be done: put up a new building in this location."
The school was rebuilt where it still stands today, in an area between Downtown and Ybor City that old-timers call the Scrub.
One of St. Peter Claver's many important graduates was Blanche Armwood. She's the namesake of Armwood High School in Hillsborough County.
The school was founded to serve the black community. Of course, today, students of all races are welcome. Still, most of the children here are black. And that continues the example set by their namesake, St. Peter Claver.
Peter Claver sailed away from a wealthy life in Spain to become a priest in South America. For the first time he saw slavery, and its cruelty, up close.
"And he saw how the slaves were being brought into the country and how they were treated," Sister Maria said.
"He made a promise to himself that he would never, ever hold himself over the slaves. He would not think of himself as better than the slaves. So he decided to call himself 'The slave of the slaves.'"
Claver would greet black slaves as they came from Africa and give them food, medical care, and a lesson in the Catholic faith.
He may have personally baptized more people than anyone who ever lived -- an estimated 300,000.
Despite many who loved and many who feared him, St. Peter Claver stayed humble -- true to himself and his faith until the end. Now that's old school.
Why do they call it that? Now you know.
St. Peter Claver is a nonprofit organization and it exists because of funding from the community.
If you would like to donate to help the school educate Tampa's children, visit the St. Peter Claver Catholic School website or call the school at (813) 224-0865.