By Taylor Boyd
The Rev. Tyler C. “TC” Millner, pastor of Morning Start Church in Axton, is spearheading a community project to celebrate the first-generation educators of George Washington (G.W.) Carver High School.
Millner, who is also a 1964 alumnus of the school in Fieldale, said the project began as an expression and tribute to the first-generation of teachers of G.W. Carver High School.
“In researching it and trying to get a background and context, it really has turned into a kind of discovery project to collect the information and put it in one place that there will be a narrative relative to the High School,” he said
The school, which was formed in 1950 and closed in 1988, does not have documented information that is readily available, Millner said.
“So, I said I’m willing to extend some effort and make it a community effort in terms that the community, one can share their yearbooks, and maybe a few people would be willing to donate their yearbooks back that that there might be some reference in the archives in the school or in the Bassett Historical Society,” he said.
Millner said the second goal is to share newspaper clips as he suspects that is about all the written history pertaining to the school is located. So far, he has learned that local papers have focused on at least three teachers, but he believes there are more.
“So, we would like for whomever is their favorite teacher if they clip things and so forth to share them that they may be scanned to help build the documentation,” he said.
“The third is we would like their narratives. We would do some oral history, you know, recording. If they have a narrative of their own for which they make reference to those teachers, or if they have a story in terms of a relationship or a project or an instance with that teacher or a number of teachers, then we would like to do some recording,” he said.
Miller said all of these items would be compiled, packaged together in a type of booklet, and then placed in the county and the Bassett Historical Society to ensure the resources can be accessed by others in the future.
“We want to make it a community at the same time, expanding the effort to salute, recognize, and pay homage to those first generation of teachers,” he said.
The project originally began when Miller, a self-described history buff, wanted to do something to show appreciation for the teachers to resemble and reconnection regarding them.
“Certainly, I was thinking about a couple of teachers that was motivating to me. But at the same time, I didn’t recall how they have been recognized or spotlighted, and so it just came to me that ‘why don’t you craft a tribute,’” he said.
When searching for documentation, he was unable to find it. Records that do exist are scattered, he said.
“I had the chance to interview or talk with several of them (first-generation teachers), and they were very helpful, and I said, ‘all of that needs to get recorded,’ because when they expire or transition, there won’t be any real sources in terms of information,” he said.
In addition to being educational, Miller said he believes this project can be inspiring for younger teachers. “Particularly when you look at many of the things the teachers now have that they didn’t have. They had second-hand books, the equipment was second-and-third-hand,” he said.
Miller said he hopes the project stimulates some reflection and involvement.
“They were very motivational. They sought not to make you look flawed or look insignificant. They related in a way that made you want to excel; made you want to do a good job. And I would think that some new and fresh teacher might very well find inspiration in a narrative like that,” he said.
“I think we as a community and those who have the interest and so forth have to continue to do the kind of thing I’m doing, so that there can be an accurate record. But also there will be sources and then there will be some connection to history,” he said.
Miller also hopes this project inspires others to write more.
“We need to keep better records, or maybe we’ve got the records and we need to write and put them so that they can be in circulation and be readily available,” he said.
Miller said he is informally partnering on the project with the school, Fayette Area Historical Initiative (FAHI) African American Museum and Cultural Center, former teachers and students of G.W. Carver, local newspapers, those who have historical interest in the school, and individual who have pieces of history and information about the school.
To help, call Miller at (276) 650-1886 or (276) 224-4147, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.