Hayden school reunion celebrating legacy, learning

Published 11:02 am Wednesday, August 8, 2018


The Hayden Group is sponsoring a class reunion for those who attended Hayden High School from 1934-1970 on Saturday, Aug. 11. The theme is “A Walk Down Our Hayden Past.” Breakfast will be from 8 to 11 a.m. in the Franklin Sportsman Association on 1431 South St.

During the meal, alumni who are in their 90s will come to share their experiences about attending the school. Following that, a picnic will take place on the grounds from 3 to 7 p.m., and guests will be able to tour the building during those hours. The event will finish off with an adults night out dance in the Franklin Sportsman Association from 9 p.m. to midnight.

Clarence Baker expects a large number of people to show up to the reunion.

“This is going to be a major event for the city of Franklin,” said Baker, “So far, 452 people decided to attend the reunion. We’re going to have people coming from all over the country.”

Dr. Alvin Harris anticipates that the reunion would be a time to commemorate the individuals of Hayden High School who paved the way to make a difference in the community.

“It’s a celebration of the longevity of the certain values that were handed down by slaves to overcome poverty and the lack of knowledge and cross racial divides,” Harris said. “The reunion is not purely a social event, but an educational one as well.”

Built in 1953, Hayden High School was named after Della I. Hayden who was a local educator in the African-American community. She was born into slavery and raised by her grandmother in Tarboro, North Carolina. After reuniting with her mother, Hayden attended school in Franklin. She later studied at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute and graduated in 1877, and founded Franklin Normal and Industrial Institute in January 1904. She died in 1924.

Hayden High School also became an important place in the fight over equality and desegregation in public schools. Even though the United States Supreme Court had already ruled in the case of Brown v. Board of Education that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional in 1954, Hayden High School started the integration process 16 years after the decision. After integration, the school became a middle school and later closed in the 1980s. In 2013, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

A few years ago, the site come under the umbrella of Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia. The place is being renovated to become apartments for seniors as well as a community center.

If anyone would like to RSVP for Saturday’s event, call 338-7747 or 569-0667.