Historic marker planned to honor closed majority-Black Ann Arbor school

A group of staff and alumni at Ann Arbor's Community High School (CHS) are leading an effort to install a historical marker honoring the primarily Black school that once occupied what is now the CHS building.

Jones School was dedicated in 1923, at a time when the surrounding neighborhood – now known as Kerrytown – was still primarily Black, thanks to segregation and redlining. The school was closed to all but preschoolers in 1965 in a desegregation effort, with students being reassigned to seven other schools. But for the 42 intervening years, it was an important hub for Ann Arbor's Black community.

"Jones is significant because we all hope and wish for a school that can help to center a community, and Jones did that to some extent for the Black community in this area," says Joslyn Hunscher-Young, a forum, social studies, and Spanish teacher at CHS. 

Hunscher-Young is also the communications lead on the group that is leading a variety of efforts to recognize Jones School's centennial. So far this school year, they've hosted a meet and greet for Jones School alumni, assigned students to take self-guided walking tours focused on the Black history of the surrounding neighborhood, and hosted a few Jones School alumni who shared stories of the school's past with current CHS students.

The group's next big project is designing and raising funds for the historical marker, which will be located near the CHS building. Group members will work with Ann Arbor District Library staff, University of Michigan history professors, Jones School alumni, and Black Ann Arbor residents to develop the text that will appear on the marker. The group has currently raised just under $8,000 of its $30,000 goal, including contributions from local businesses like Zingerman's, Kerrytown Market and Shops, and the Lunch Room.

Hunscher-Young sees the project as a way to continue necessary community conversations about ongoing segregation in the Ann Arbor area.

"It's really exciting that we're able to do this and help amplify the voices of local elders and people who used to be here, some of whom still are here," she says. "I think it's really powerful to see that and I also know that it's not enough. ... There still needs to be more conversation around what we want this community to be, how we make that happen, and what systemic changes we need to have happen in order to make this the space and the community that we want it to be."

Click here to learn more about the Jones School project or to donate to the historical marker.

Patrick Dunn is the managing editor of Concentrate.

Jones School photo courtesy of Ann Arbor District Library. Alumni meet and greet photo by Daniel Ging.
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