Pine Grove Project receives historic marker

Published 5:15 pm Friday, May 5, 2023

Booker T. Washington came up with the concept. The idea was to create a system of schools for African American students. Finished in 1917, the Pine Grove School is one of six in Cumberland County. Through the years, it’s helped educate students, it served as a community center and was a gathering place when local residents wanted to get together. To honor its historic value, the school has been included on the Virginia Landmark Register and National Register of Historic Places. On Saturday, April 29, it was given another unique honor. 

The Pine Grove School, located at 267 Pinegrove Road in Cumberland, was honored with a historic marker. This is a first for an African American site in the local Rural Historic District. Speakers for the event included Martin Brown, Chief Diversity Officer with the Governor’s Office; Dr. Colita Fairfax, Chairperson of Historic Marker Programs at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources; Sonja Ingram from Preservation Virginia and Nathan Burrell from Virginia Outdoors Foundation, whose organization funded, in part, the historic marker and the preparation of the grounds. 

Cumberland’s own Dr. Chip Jones, Superintendent of Cumberland County Schools and Cale Jaffe, Director of the University of Virginia Environmental Law Office also spoke. 

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The keynote speaker was Cumberland’s own Justin G. Reid, a graduate of Cumberland Public Schools, a philanthropy leader, public historian, and co-founder of Griffin Blvd Archives. An emotive ancestral libation was led by Reverend Stephanie Hicks Willett, member of the AMMD Pine Grove Project Board. 

Also featured prominently on the program were students from CUCPS who served as hosts, docents, and speakers. The choir under the direction of Mrs. Kinney performed a moving rendition of “Rise Up,” and the JROTC cadets served admirably under the leadership of SGM Tigs. 

Pine Grove School alumni and retired U.S. Army officer Robin Stocks, retired Cumberland County Commonwealth’s Attorney Patricia Scales and Reverend Muriel Miller Branch, Founder and President Emeritus of AMMD Pine Grove Project, all gave reflections and challenged the community to rise up to reclaim, restore and repurpose the work to restore and repurpose the historic school and community.  Another Pine Grove alum, Dorothy M. Rice, performed her original poem about Pine Grove entitled, “Roots, Crown and Canopy,” and Michael Scales led the audience in singing a medley of songs that included, The Star Spangled Banner, and Lift Every Voice and Sing! 

“AMMD Pine Grove Project continues to grow and thrive, as a testament to, and in honor of the determination and resiliency of our ancestors!,” said Project member Muriel Branch. “We Rise!”