Ryan Hall Elementary School

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Built ca. 1920, the Shipman Colored School, later called Ryan Hall Elementary School, provided education to African American children in Nelson County during Virginia’s era of public school segregation. It was expanded within the next five years with the addition of two classrooms, due to additional financial support from philanthropists Thomas and Mary Fortune Ryan, who lived at nearby Oak Hill. When Thomas Ryan died in 1928 the school was renamed Ryan Hall in his honor. The school grew again in the 1930s with the construction of a new two-room building beside the original school. By the time this second building was complete, the school had five classrooms and employed five teachers. For 40 years it educated African American children from the Shipman area of Nelson County in grades 1 through 7. Small graded schools like Ryan Hall–frame or log buildings with only a few classrooms and no indoor plumbing – were the norm for African American education in the county until the 1960s. The school is a rare surviving example of the type of school attended by all African American children in Nelson County during the first half of the 20th century and is a tangible reminder of the segregated educational system that united the Black community in their efforts to overcome it.

Last Updated: April 20, 2024

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VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark

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