Recognizing the historic Alapaha Colored School

City leaders said the school has stood as a testament to its founder’s commitment to educating African American children.
Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 6:13 PM EST
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ALAPAHA, Ga. (WALB) - From 1924 until 1954, the Alapaha Colored School was the only school for Black children in the northern part of Berrien County. It’s located on Henry Street South.

City leaders told WALB the Alapaha Colored School has stood as a testament to its founder’s commitment to educating African American children in this district.

Alapha Mayor Benjamin Davis attended the school and says visiting there brought back memories.

“It was an integrated school just like everything else was, so it was at times kind of difficult,” Davis said.

Nathan Bridges and Brutus Shipman founded the school. Bridges was a former slave that moved to the city around 1880.

Black and white photo of Nathan Bridges.
Black and white photo of Nathan Bridges.(Source: Alapaha Councilwoman Vickie Harsey)

Below is a biography of Bridges.

“Nathan Bridges was born in 1857 in Randolph County, Ga. Nathan Bridges came to Alapaha, Ga. around 1880, according to Neil Shipman. Nathan would contract work to haul sawdust from the mills in the area. He would buy town lots, and eventually had a large estate as a slave, he worked as a butler and drove a horse and buggy for his mistress. During this time, he learned to read and write. In 1900, he opened up an icehouse near the Ocilla and Southern Depot. He would deliver ice around town in a wheelbarrow and later with a mule and wagon. Finally, he started carrying a line of groceries. Marjorie Shearer, a high school English teacher, remembers,” We always went to Uncle Nath’s store to buy candy because it was cheaper there than the other stores.” In 1924 Nathan and his step-grandson Brute Shipman were on a Board of Trustees that established The Alapaha Colored School. Nathan and his wife, Easter, were well respected in the Alapaha community. Nathan died in 1940.”

The school inspired African American residents whose goals were to reach higher than their circumstances and to serve their education. The school served three different counties and had over 300 students attend.

Alapaha Councilwoman Vickie Harsey told WALB they are planning the 100-year anniversary of the home in February 2024. They are encouraging people in the community to acknowledge this historic preservation in the city beyond Black History Month.

“I think preserving our historic buildings is essential to the community because it does show, well it’s the lifeblood it’s where they came from,” Harsey said.

They are looking for interested people in the community to help with the needed repairs and cleanup. They are also in need of photos and news clippings about the school and its former students.

Anyone interested in the project should contact Harsey at (229) 402-9533, or