The school, according to the Commission, is part of a series of school houses called the Rosenwald School Buildings. These schools were built from 1912 to 1932 to educate black children, particularly those in poor, rural areas. The program was begun and maintained through money donated by Julius Rosenwald, the president of the Sears, Roebuck and Company. He, along with Booker T. Washington, oversaw the program through Tuskegee Institute. Rosenwald stipulated that each community had to match his donations in order to build a school.
The program was responsible for the construction of 5,300 schools in rural black communities during its 20 year existence. These schools spanned 15 southern states, with 389 sites in Alabama alone.
Wyatt School, according to the history the Mining Museum compiled, was built in Burnwell by a “wealthy white man,” as the first school to provide education to black children in that area. The lumber supposedly came from the home of Jack Boyd, father of Terrell S. Boyd, namesake of the area’s recently-closed elementary school.
The building has been used for several other purposes since it was a school, including a dance hall, according to Alabama Mining Museum President Richard Lovelady. The Mining Museum purchased the building and moved it across the street from their museum in 1990.
Although many of the Rosenwald school buildings still exist, this is the first one in Walker County to be registered with the Alabama Historical Commission and only the sixth in the state, according to Jennifer Bailey, with the Commission.
This is part of a push from the Cahaba Trace Commission to identify the remaining structures and attempt to get them added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Bailey said that despite the fact that the school was not in its original location, its near-pristine condition encouraged the commission to add the Wyatt School to the state register.
A listing on the state register is an honorary designation and does not provide any benefits or restrictions for property honors.
The Alabama Mining Museum, located at 120 East Street, just off Sharon Boulevard, is open from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday through Friday and by appointment during afternoons and Saturdays. No admission is charged, but donations are welcomed. The phone number is (205) 648-2442 to set up an appointment.