The William Penn Project
The William Penn Project is a classroom-based service learning initiative that explores and shares the history of a segregated African American high school in High Point, North Carolina from its founding in 1892 through its closure in 1968. Undergraduate students at High Point University and high school students at the Penn-Griffin School for the Arts (which inhabits the buildings that used to hold William Penn High School) are doing archival research and oral history interviews with alumni and using that evidence to build a website on the history of the school.
This project has multiple educational, community, and historical goals. For college students, it is an opportunity to learn about the history that surrounds their university; high school students can discover the stories of the earlier generations that walked the halls of their school. In both cases, they are also learning about a culture that is often quite distinct from their own while developing an array of research, writing, communication, and technology skills. The project also aims to enhance relationships between university and community members, and create opportunities for meaningful dialogue about issues of race, class, and education among the diverse communities of High Point. Additionally, we hope to enrich understanding of High Point’s history by incorporating voices that traditionally have been less recognized in chronicles of the city’s past.