Cumberland County looks at a new plan for Luther P. Jackson High

Published 7:42 am Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Cumberland County is looking at a new future for the old Luther P. Jackson High School building. 

As we reported last month, the county is currently looking over its comprehensive plan and the Parks and Recreation Master Plan to see what projects it can do in coming years to better serve residents. With the comprehensive plan, the county is currently looking for feedback from residents to see what they want to see. 

A main item on the plan is what will happen to the Luther P. Jackson High building. During the time of segregation, this school served the African American students in the county. Now it has sat empty for many years and this new project is looking at how to use the building to serve the county while also honoring its history.

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The plan is for the school building to have two functions. First, the county is looking at the potential repurposing for county offices for different departments that need the extra space. Second, a part of the school will serve as a museum to honor the history it holds. 

“A significant part of this will be community engagement,” said Stamey. “It’s a county building, so we want to engage the county on what they’d like to see.” 

Who was Luther P. Jackson?

First and foremost, who was Luther P. Jackson, the man the school is named for? He is considered one of Virginia’s first civil rights activists of the 1930s and 1940s. Serving as a professor of history at Virginia State College in Petersburg for almost 30 years, Jackson was focused on research.

He authored Free Negro Labor and Property Holding in Virginia, 1830–1860, a 1942 research paper that challenged stereotypes of antebellum black residents. He also helped found the Petersburg League of Negro Voters in 1935 and wrote a weekly newspaper column titled “Rights and Duties in a Democracy”. Jackson is also known for challenging Richmond’s segregated public transit system.

A museum in Cumberland County

For the museum part, Stamey hopes to connect with community members that attended the school or have family members that did. He wants this to be a chance to tell first-hand accounts and connect to future generations.

When looking at a timeline for this project, residents shouldn’t plan on seeing any changes soon. The comprehensive plan lays out plans for the county for the next 25 years so this plan could start taking shape around 2030. In the meantime, Stamey is putting together funding and plans to make sure everything is in place when the plan starts going into action. 

For funding, the county is working with the Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC) to look for available grants. Stamey already has some money set aside but is still looking for opportunities to utilize grant funding. With the project so far out there is no definite answer to what this project will cost. 

“We are currently getting the plan together so that way when the opportunity arises we will be prepared,” said Stamey. “We are working with the CRC to be prepared to apply for grants.”