In 1900 William Merida Hubbard opened a school with seven students in the Kynette Methodist Church in the city of Forsyth. Like many schools in the Jim Crow South, churches presented the only option for educating black children. He opened this school at a time when there was little interest and minimal financial support for African American public education in Georgia. Undaunted by this challenge, William Hubbard cultivated partnerships with the white community in Forsyth. In 1902, Hubbard and five white men from Forsyth successfully petitioned the Superior Court of Monroe County to incorporate the Forsyth Normal and Industrial School with one small building on ten acres of land.
Hubbard’s mission was to prepare teachers to educate African American youth in Monroe and surrounding counties. In less than 15 years, William Hubbard developed a curriculum for the school that extended classes to the 9th grade. By 1916, the 10th and 11th grades were added and the Forsyth Normal and Industrial School became one of a handful of senior high schools that existed in Georgia for African Americans.
Hubbard continued his quest for partnerships with the white community to ensure that the Forsyth Normal and Industrial School became a County Training School. In 1917, it was accredited. With this designation, by 1918 the Georgia Assembly passed the Smith-Hughes Act and the Forsyth Normal and Industrial School became the state’s first vocational school for African Americans. In 1922, another milestone was achieved when the Georgia legislature passed an act that made the Forsyth Normal and Industrial School the “School of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts for the Training of Negroes.” In 1927, the school became a junior college, but sadly that same year a dire destroyed the main building. William Hubbard sought additional land and buildings fro the institution that by that time educated over 2,000 students and operated a farm on 300 acres of land.
Construction of new buildings after the fire began during the Great Depression on Georgia Highway 83 within walking distance of the original complex. By 1936, several brick buildings were completed, including an auditorium, the president’s house, administration building, gymnasium, and the home economics building. Never losing site of his original mission to educate teachers, William Hubbard orchestrated the construction of dormitories so that students would have a place to stay while they were receiving training.
In 1931, the Georgia legislature once again changed the name of the school and it became the State Teachers and Agricultural College for Negroes (STAC). At that time, STAC became one of the three public colleges for African Americans in that University System of Georgia. By 1933, STAC introduced the Exchange Teachers Plan that trained teachers for service in many of the 242 Rosenwald Schools that once existed in Georgia.
Despite William Hubbard’s demonstrated success, STAC was closed in 1938 when the state transferred its financial support to the Fort Valley State College in nearby Peach County. The following year the campus became the property of the Monroe County Board of Education and the school was re-opened as the Hubbard Training School. Samuel Hubbard, the son of William Hubbard, became the school’s principal.
Samuel Hubbard, like his father, led the school during turbulent years. In 1955, a new building was added and the name of the school was changed to the Hubbard Elementary and High School. Samuel Hubbard was the principal of both schools until Monroe County’s schools were desegregated in 1970. today, the Hubbard campus includes the non-historic William M. Hubbard Middle School and the Samuel E. Hubbard Elementary School.
What became of the historic buildings that are significant part of the Hubbard legacy? The women’s dormitory continued to be used for a number of years to provide housing for teachers as part of the Exchange Teachers Plan and for a time after the fire the first floor served as classrooms and housed the school library. By 1970, all buildings constructed during the STAC era disappeared from the landscape except for the women’s dormitory, president’s home and the teachers’ cottage.
Standing vacant for many years, the women’s dormitory was endangered until several alumni from all the Hubbard Schools formed the Hubbard Alumni Association. They included Larry Evans, Annie Evans, Winifred Berry, Mable Smith, Mary Chambliss, John Thomas Lyons, Annie McCray, Lillian Davis, Linwood Gantt, Jr. and Herbert Gantt. By 1989, the Hubbard Alumni Association was chartered as a nonprofit organization to continue the legacy of William and Samuel Hubbard. Today, 62 alumni are life members of the association. Herbert C Gantt is the current president. Like the school’s founder, the Hubbard Alumni Association continued a mission of education. By 2018, the Hubbard Alumni Association had awarded 95 scholarships.
In the tradition of the school’s founder, the Hubbard Alumni Association cultivated partnerships with the Monroe County Board of Education to preserve the Hubbard Women’s Dormitory and revitalize it for use as a museum, training and cultural center. This building along with the teachers’ cottage was subsequently listed in the National Register of Historic Places on May 30, 2003. This recognition paved the way for a new relationship with the Historic Preservation Division.