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33rd Avenue High School

33rd Avenue High School

Gulfport, Mississippi

Constructed in 1954 under the “separate yet equal” doctrine of school segregation, 33rd Avenue High School was one once a focus of pride for the Quarters neighborhood.  The school traces its history back to 1921, when a two-story wood frame building was constructed to serve as the only school for African- Americans in the city of Gulfport.  After a fire, a one-story brick building was constructed in 1930.  This building later became the elementary school when the new high school building, gymnasium, cafeteria and vocational shop were opened in 1954.

Designed in the International style by Gulfport architect Milton B.E. Hill, 33rd Avenue High School tells an important story about race relations and the equalization period in Mississippi.  During the 1940s and 50s, Mississippi sought to provide a system of education that was less unequal than before by building new facilities for African-American students, hoping to stave off efforts to desegregate the state’s schools.  When Gulfport Public Schools were integrated in 1969, 33rd Avenue High School was closed.  Before Hurricane Katrina, the building was used by the Department of Labor as the Gulfport Job Corps Center.

When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, 33rd Avenue High School suffered extensive damage.  The storm-damaged 1930 elementary school was demolished before citizens could rally for its preservation.  In the eight years since the storm, there has been extensive debate about the fate of the remaining structures, while the buildings sit open to the elements, continuing to decay. Only the vocal and ongoing advocacy efforts of concerned citizens have prevented these buildings from being demolished.

The Department of Labor, which holds a 25-year lease on the property from the city of Gulfport, is continuing a dialogue on the future of the buildings with the city leaders, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and concerned citizens at the table.

2017 Update – In Progress

According to the SunHerald, several exterior walls of the 33rd Avenue High School will be preserved and it will become the site of a new Jobs Corps Center. The project is estimated to cost $30 million. Senator Thad Cochran is credited for getting the Department of Labour federal funds for this project.

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Nominated by:  The Quarters Group and the 33rd Avenue Alumni Association

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