In recent months, James Turner has found himself digging through forgotten, dusty boxes in search of lost memories from his high school years.
Turner is among a group of alumni from Bonds-Wilson High School leading the charge to remind the community of the long-closed school’s history.
But finding items from a closed school has proven difficult. So far Turner’s only managed to track down two sports trophies, a granite slab donated by the class of 1976 and the skin from an old base drum used in the school’s marching band.
“That’s all we have right now,” Turner said.
A public meeting for Bonds-Wilson alumni and former faculty to get involved in the effort is planned for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Academic Magnet at 5109-A West Enterprise Street in North Charleston.
The idea to resurrect the once-segregated school’s achievements followed the controversy last year over Academic Magnet High School football team’s allegedly racially charged victory ritual that involved chanting and smashing watermelons which the students called Bonds-Wilson. Academic Magnet and the Charleston County School of the Arts are located on the Bonds-Wilson campus, a name that pays tribute to the historically black school once located there. Bonds-Wilson integrated in 1971 and later closed in 1985.
“Knowledge is power,” Turner said. “When you have knowledge, then you see pictures accurately and you see what Bonds-Wilson really was.”
Turner, who graduated from Bonds-Wilson in 1975, said he has turned to long-time Bonds-Wilson band director and former Charleston County Councilman Lonnie Hamilton III to help bring the school’s history back to life. And a steering committee of alumni is working with Academic Magnet Principal Judith Peterson to create Bonds-Wilson displays at the school. The effort is one that Peterson said she and her staff have “embraced.”
“We are members of the Bonds-Wilson campus and if there is a generation of people living here now who do not know about it, I’m an educator and I see it as my responsibility to help find ways to share the history with them,” Peterson said.
Bonds-Wilson had a long and successful history, Turner said. The hope is to share those stories on the campus bearing the school’s name.
“This is about a positive experience moving forward between the alumni, students and the community at large,” Turner said.