The fully restored Hosanna School Museum, in Darlington, serves as a “living classroom,” for its visitors.
The two-story building, built in 1867, was once a rural schoolhouse built for African Americans, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today the building serves as a museum, complete with a fully furnished classroom, displays and artifacts.
History of Hosanna School
The Hosanna School, also known as the Berkley School, was the first of three public schools built in Harford County by the Freedmen’s Bureau, soon after the conclusion of the Civil War. The land was deeded to the school by Joseph Paca, son of Cupid Paca, a free black man who had amassed several parcels of land, which he deeded to his children.
“The building of Freedmen Bureau schools was mandated by law across all of the former slave-holding states for the purpose of educating the recently freed African Americans,” the Hosanna School Museum website states.
Executive Director Iris Barnes said the Hosanna School Museum represents “the power and presence of the community.”
“Due to the insistence and persistence of the community’s black leadership, particularly, its church leadership, formal education was obtained for individuals who had been denied it previously,” she said.
Roxann Redd-Wallace, program and education coordinator, said that when the school opened in 1867, some adults would attend the school with their children, to receive an education.
“After being denied an education for so long, adults were eager to attend school alongside their children,” a plaque in the museum states.
Restoring Hosanna School
In 1879 the operation of the school was assumed by the Harford County School Commissioners, and in 1907, the building was condemned for use as a school. However, Hosanna remained active as a school for local African American children until 1945.
In 1948 Hosanna Community House, Inc., was founded to preserve the building and it was used for a community meeting place. In the late 1950s, Hurricane Hazel destroyed the top floor of the building. After several restoration phases, the building was fully restored in 2005.
The museum is operated by the Hosanna Community House, Inc., and is supported in part by grants received from Harford County government, Maryland State legislature, Maryland Historical Trust, Preservation Maryland, local businesses and organizations and community individuals.
Redd-Wallace said children especially enjoy looking at artifacts from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The classroom contains the original slate chalkboard, piano, and text books that were used by the students.
Redd-Wallace said visitors are usually drawn to “The Book of Dreams,” a 60-pound, three-foot tall book, designed and written by students who attended the Friends School of Harford in 2007. The book is about the experiences of slave children and the Underground Railroad and is on display at the front of the classroom.
Another popular display is a Kellogg telephone that was produced in the 1920s and 1930s.
“The school never actually had a telephone,” Redd-Wallace said. “It is there to show students what an early phone looked like. Many of today’s students have never seen anything other than a smart phone.”
In addition to the “living classroom,” the museum has a large collection of African American history books that visitors can browse and read during their visit.
On Saturday, Feb. 3, the museum will host a film screening of the documentary “13th,” directed by Ava DuVernay, and a panel discussion from noon to 3:30 p.m. The film explores race and mass incarceration in the U.S. Its title refers to the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. Admission is free.
The museum’s biggest event is the Juneteenth Celebration Festival, which commemorates the end of slavery in America and celebrates African American history and culture. The event will feature costumed interpreters, musical performers, dance performers, lectures, food trucks, craft vendors, raffles, a bake sale and children’s activities. It will be held on Saturday, June 23 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free.
“Our inaugural event had more than 500 attendees,” Barnes said. “We hope to double those numbers this year.”
About the Historic Hosanna School Museum
The Hosanna School Museum is located on 2424 Castleton Road, Darlington. From Oct. 1-March 30, the museum is open Friday and Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. From April 1-Sept. 30, the museum is open Friday, Saturday and Monday from noon to 3 p.m. For more information, call 410-457-4161, www.hosannaschoolmuseum.org, or https://www.facebook.com/hosanna1867/.