Cherry Grove Schoolhouse
Constructed circa 1910, Cherry Grove Schoolhouse in Wilkes County stands as a rare surviving example of an early 20th-century rural African American school building in Georgia. This one-room schoolhouse is on the grounds of the Cherry Grove Baptist Church, which was established in 1875, and was part of the 175th school district for the farming children of Danburg and Sandtown. The building was in use from 1910 to 1956. After a long period of deterioration, the Cherry Grove Schoolhouse became the center of a preservation initiative headed by the Friends of Cherry Grove School, established in 2015. The building had a collapsed roof (which had broken through the floor), termite damage, and broken joists. In addition, the structure—which sits on a gentle slope—was leaning, after one pier—part of the building’s foundation—had fallen apart. The University of Georgia completed a historic structures report in 2016, which identified appropriate interventions and helped collect the histories tied to the site. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2020 and named a Georgia Trust Place in Peril in 2021, the Friends of Cherry Grove set an example for many other groups in the state to follow. Community-led efforts attracted funds and in-kind donations that were vital to the rehabilitation. This project has brought together many citizens of Wilkes County, preserved a significant heritage tourism site, and brings needed recognition to the history of education of African American children in rural Jim Crow South.
The Marguerite Williams Award is presented annually to the project that has had the greatest impact on preservation in the state.