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The History of the Banneker School

The hills of Parkville shelter many histories. Among the most fascinating, but least known, is that of Banneker School. Nestled just beyond the top of a Main Street hill, access is only from West Street. This was the path taken to it by black children from southern Platte County. Built in 1885 with bricks made by students at Park College, it was replaced in 1902 by a two-room school located several blocks away.

Banneker School>
"In this one-room Banneker School, my ancestors received their education. Banneker has a rich heritage and deserves to be put in the curriculum of African Amerian history."

Marva J. Williams, Parkville native
Slave descendant, Alumna of Banneker II

Across the nation, schools have been named after Benjamin Banneker, a noted African American 18th Century scientist, mathematician, clockmaker and astronomer. Parkville’s Banneker School educated children from the area who were, by state law, prohibited from attending school with white children. “Although the Banneker School in Parkville, built in 1885, is a brick building, an 1890s news article in the "Parkville Independent" indicates the modest level of its furnishings. "New seats are being placed in the primary room of the public school building. The old ones will be put in the colored school building, where benches have been heretofore used." The school house itself, is a simple rectangular, one-room building with a gable roof. On the interior, the blackboards are black paint on plaster (rather than slate). Fifty-eight students attended this school in 1898. The construction of this school and a second Banneker School, built in 1902, were made possible by the interest and support of Park College, a Presbyterian school located in Parkville.

Following desegregation, the original building fell into private hands. In the early 1980s, led by Mrs. Lucille Douglas, a former Banneker teacher and long-time Parkville community leader, the property was purchased with the intent to preserve it. As such, it was deeded to the Platte County Historical and Genealogical Society.

Recognizing the school’s potential as a site for unique hands-on history education for schoolchildren, efforts were made by former students and local residents to work toward that goal. As the Banneker Restoration Committee, they succeeded in having the school listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This distinction allowed them to apply for and receive a grant to stabilize the building and return it to its original configuration. Additional fundraising included the successful 1999-2002 ‘One Million Pennies’ drive, a community service project of students at Union Chapel Elementary School.

In 2008, to more actively pursue the goal of restoration and to raise the necessary funds, a 501-c3 non profit organization had to be formed. The Banneker School Foundation of Parkville, Missouri now holds the deed to the nearly 110 year-old building. In 2009, the Missouri Preservation Alliance included Banneker among their list of "most endangered" historic sites in Missouri. 

Additional information:

Banneker School Foundation and Historic Site . PO Box 29028 . Parkville, MO 64152