By Andrea Marroquin, JIA Museum Curator
School was an important part of life for Jekyll Island’s working families. By the 1920s, the last home on Red Row had been converted into a schoolhouse for children of the African American employees of the Jekyll Island Club. On average, 10-15 pupils attended the little schoolhouse. Over the years, teachers included Professor Wilder, Katye Cash, and Anna Hill.
Anna Hill grew up on Jekyll Island. Her father was Charlie Hill, who worked as a coachman and a caretaker for the Maurice family. She lived with her parents in a special cottage built for them by the Maurices. Hill remembered that the Maurice family sometimes allowed the island’s black employees to hold parties in their stable. She said they would remove the coaches, and everyone would have a “grand time.”
When Hill was old enough to attend school, she moved to Brunswick to pursue her education and eventually went on to Atlanta for college. She returned to Jekyll Island in the 1930s to teach the island’s African American children. Hill earned about $50 per month as a teacher and worked at the Club Laundry to supplement her wages.
By this time, school was in session all year, and many of the Jekyll Island Club’s African American employees, as well as their children, attended a summer school sponsored by the Club. Lessons on the island went up to the sixth grade. After that, children attended boarding school in Brunswick.
The Jekyll Island Schoolhouse provided a thorough education. One student remembered: “We would have to know every state, its capital, and every mountain that was in it, if there was mountains. If there was valleys in it, we would have to know that. We would have to know every river, how it flows, what sound it dumps into, where it flows into what ocean and everything. Like Georgia, we had to know Georgia from A to Z.”
When not in school, many students worked odd jobs about the island. The schoolchildren served as caddies, boat launch staff, elevator operators, and more for the millionaire members of the Jekyll Island Club.
Visit Mosaic, Jekyll Island Museum to discover more about the African American experience on Jekyll Island. A new exhibit, In the Service of Others, documents the African American community’s essential role in the development of the Jekyll Island Club. To find out more, click HERE to read In the Service of Others article in 31.81 – The Magazine of Jekyll Island.