Albion Academy, founded in 1879 in Franklinton, educated African American youth for more than fifty years. Moses Aaron Hopkins (1846-1886), a former slave from Virginia who became a Presbyterian minister after the Civil War, started the school "to lift the fallen sons of our people in America, and ultimately to enlighten the minds in the benighted land of our fathers." Hopkins sought to prepare students for productive lives as preachers, teachers, and business people.
The school received a boost in 1881, when the North Carolina General Assembly appropriated funds for the establishment of eight normal schools throughout the state. Leaders realized that North Carolina's fledgling system of public schools could not flourish without qualified teachers. They viewed normal schools as a means of improving educators' credentials. Albion Academy was chosen to serve as one of four additional normal schools for African Americans. By 1885, when the school published its sixth annual catalog, Albion Academy had served 286 prospective teachers from 27 counties in North Carolina.
Nearly 350 students attended the school during the 1884-85 academic year. Many of them came from Franklin and Granville Counties. Carrie E. Hopkins, wife of the founder, served as principal of the Industrial Department. Here girls learned how to cook and sew, and boys honed their carpentry and farming skills. The John F. Slater Fund for the Education of Freedmen supported this component of the school. Young children attended the Primary Department, while still others were prepared to enroll in colleges.
Hopkins left Albion in 1885 to become U.S. minister and consul general to Liberia. He died in Monrovia the following year. His wife returned to Franklinton, where she continued to teach.
Albion Academy flourished under the leadership of John Anthony Savage. The pastor of a Presbyterian church in Louisburg, Savage served as secretary-treasurer of the school before succeeding Hopkins as principal. According to an article published in the Franklinton News in 1924, 525 students attended the school during the 1923-24 academic year. Of these, 230 lived on campus. The article described Albion as one of the best negro high schools in North Carolina. By the mid-1920s, the academy consisted of some twelve buildings. These occupied a large piece of property bordered on the north by College Street and on the west by Main Street. Included were dwellings, a chapel, an infirmary, dormitories for males and females, a recitation building, and a refectory.
Albion Academy continued to operate until 1933, the year that John Savage died. According to an article published in The Franklin County Sketchbook (1982), the school's property was given to the Franklinton public schools.
Published in The Franklin Times on March 20, 2014.
Photo credit: Faith Hall, Albion Academy, Franklinton, N.C., in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill
Maury York is director of the Tar River Center for History and Culture at Louisburg College. He can be reached at email@example.com.