- Associated Press - Saturday, March 4, 2017

VADO, N.M. (AP) - An elementary school in southern New Mexico that served for more than a quarter-century as a segregated school for African-American students has been added to the national list of historic places.

Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary was as a four-room school from 1926 until 1957. It has since served as the city of Vado’s community center and home to a federal program that promotes school readiness for low-income families, The Las Cruces Sun-News reported (https://bit.ly/2mn30Jv).

Vado residents gathered Tuesday to celebrate the building’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places, which became official on the last day of Black History Month.

“We have been working on this for years,” said Espy Holguin, an officer of the Vado Historical Society.

The school, named after renowned poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, was constructed after a 1925 state law permitted racial segregation in public schools.

Lifelong Vado resident Bobbie J. Boyer attended the school from 1945 until 1954. She said two grades were taught in each of the school’s four classrooms, and she remembered “outstanding teachers and the principal, Giels B. Grimes.”

The school’s historic designation “means a lot to those of us that have lived in Vado,” Boyer said.

Boyer, whose family founded Vado as one of New Mexico’s first black communities, said the school’s designation as a landmark was the dream of her late husband, Roosevelt, and the Boyer family. The Boyer family came to New Mexico from Georgia in about 1901, according to a news release from the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division.

“So many black people came to New Mexico from southern states for a better life,” Boyer said. “It is important to remember this school and that Vado was an all-black community when it was settled because not everything that happened to black people in history happened in the South.”

Segregation in New Mexico ended shortly after the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The school is among six surviving schools built during segregation in New Mexico.

“The Dunbar school is a landmark in the history of segregation and in the history of African Americans in New Mexico,” said Jeff Pappas, director of the state Historic Preservation Division. “We’re grateful to have had the opportunity to list this school in the State and National Register, not only for its important place in the state history, but because it opens the door for other underrepresented communities to come forward with important buildings and other cultural resources to be recognized in the Registers.”

Plaques commemorating the historic designation will be placed outside the red-brick veneer building, Holguin said.

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Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, https://www.lcsun-news.com

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