On Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 11 a.m., a group of 17 people, including church members and people from the community, joined together outside St. Mark’s Episcopal Church located at 3906 Highway 903 in Bracey to dedicate a new marker on the Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail.
Entitled “St. Mark’s Church & Carroll-Boyd School,” the attractive, low-profile marker commemorates the life of Rev. James Solomon Russell (1857-1935), shares the history of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church for African Americans in St. Tammany (now Bracey), and explains the evolution of the school next door from St. Mark’s Parish School in 1885 to a Rosenwald School called the Carroll-Boyd School in 1927. The colorful panel also provides a map of all of the sites on the trail.
Willie Bennett and Carol Corker, active members of the Bracey History Project team and local historians, and Tina Morgan, Mecklenburg County tourism coordinator, played key roles in researching, writing, and acquiring images for the panel.
The dedication and blessing ceremony were organized by Bennett, senior warden, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and the Rt. Rev. Susan Haynes, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia, with the coordination of Morgan.
Presenters during the 30-minute ceremony included Rev. Ruth Partlow, supply priest, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church; Bennett; Cora Giles, junior warden, St. Mark’s; Shirley Kirton, lay eucharistic minister, St. Mark’s; and Haynes.
“We decided to have an official dedication and blessing ceremony because of the significance of having the marker here,” said Bennett. “It is so important to have the marker which highlights the Rev. Russell’s efforts in religion and education for blacks in the late 1800s and early 1900s located on the grounds of this historical church. Members of the church are very appreciative to Mecklenburg County and Virginia Crossroads for their decision to locate the marker in Bracey.”
The Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail was established in 2004, and is owned and managed by Virginia’s Crossroads, a tourism marketing consortium. The self-guided driving tour now features 53 sites in 15 different counties in South Central Virginia.
Because it is not linear or chronological, it may be started and ended at any point. Trailblazing signs lead participants from one stop to the next with the help of a brochure featuring the physical addresses of each site.
To learn more about this self-guided driving tour and download a brochure, visit vacrossroads.com.
“I’m proud to have this site commemorated with this panel and thankful to Virginia’s Crossroads for making this possible,” said Morgan. “It is really heartwarming to see how proud this community is to have it here.”
This site is one of three locations in Mecklenburg County on the Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail.
There is also one at the Boydton Academic and Bible Institute near 18078 Highway 58 in Boydton and one at the Thyne Institute near 5120 Highway 47 in Chase City.