Visitors Guide to the
Lincoln School
4th & Green Streets
Canton, Missouri

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The Lincoln School is significant as the first and only schoolhouse built for African-Americans in Canton, Missouri. From its construction in 1880 until the Canton Public School System was integrated in 1956, the Lincoln School provided the only educational opportunity for the area's African-American citizens, teaching grades one through eight and at times providing adult education classes as well. The first school in Canton for African-Americans children began in 1866, in a building previously occupied by the Post Office. The Canton Board of Education agreed to pay $5 a month for its use and employed S.S. Seller as teacher for $50 a month. The school was closed at the end of the year, because the Board lacked the funds to continue it. In 1868 the school was reorganized and a new teacher appointed for $30 a month. This time classes were held in a frame house owned by R. A. Grant. By 1870 records indicate that the teacher of the school was authorized to admit students over the legal age on payment of $1 month tuition, provided they not interfere with the instruction of the regular pupils. At this point the school had taken up quarters in the African Methodist Church building.

In 1871 a new school was built for Cantonís white students and the contrast between the white facilities and the inadequate facilities being provided African-Americans at the church was striking. In 1872, in response to resentment in the African-American community the building owned by the A.M.E. Church was repaired by the School Board and new equipment purchased. In1880, the School Board minutes recorded "a petition from the colored citizens of Canton asking and praying for a better school building for the accommodation of the colored children of Canton School District...." A committee was appointed to estimate the cost of a new school building and on March 16 the Board resolved to submit to the voters a proposition to erect a new "colored school" at a cost of $800. At a special election on May 1, the proposal was passed.

The location chosen for the new school was a parcel of land in town which had been set aside as a park. On July 6, 1880, bids were opened and the contract for the construction of a brick building, 42' by 24' in size, was awarded to J. S. Eaton for $700. The Lincoln School is a vernacular, common bond brick building with walls 13" thick and sits on an ashlar limestone foundation. The ornamentation of its facades is simple and entrance to the school is through a transommed doubleleaf door. The original wood floor was replaced with concrete after it became dilapidated due to flooding by the Mississippi River. Sometime after 1924 a partition was constructed, and indoor toilets and electricity were added.

The first teacher at the Lincoln School was M. L. Clay who received $35 a month. After seeing a need for education for adult African-Americans, clay organized night classes at the school at his own expense. The Lincoln School was a segregated facility for all of the seventy-five years it operated as a school. Facilities at the school were always of a lower standard than its white counterparts. With the exception of its first African-American teacher, Charles W. Lear, who taught at the school for thirty-two years, teacher turnover was high. Students who graduated from the Lincoln School were not allowed to attend the white high school in Canton. In 1946 arrangements were made to bus African-American high school students to Hannibal, a daily round trip of eighty miles. The Lincoln school closed and African-American students began attending white schools in Canton when the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in schools with its decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954.

The Lincoln School became a storage facility after it no longer was being used as a school. The Lincoln School was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. In 1995 the dilapidated building was donated to the City of Canton by the school district. The Lincoln School Restoration Association, Inc., a multi-ethnic organization, has been restoring the building. Eleanora Tate used the Lincoln School as the basis for the fictional Douglass School of Nutbush, Missouri, in her stories for children and young adults.

Visiting the Lincoln School
     Only the exterior of the Lincoln School can be viewed.
There is no charge to visit the Lincoln School

Location: The Lincoln School is located in Martin Park at the corner of 4th and Green Streets. Martin Park is located south of downtown Canton on 4th Street (US-61 BUS.)

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