The Presbyterian Church was at the vanguard of teaching Black children in Hot Springs in the late nineteenth century.
Reverend A.E. Torrence opened a parochial school for Black students in the early 1890s, which was “highly regarded locally for it program of culture and quality education.” In 1904, Reverend C.S. Mebane took over the school, including ownership of its property and equipment. While many referred to the school as the Mebane Academy, he called it the Hot Springs Normal and Industrial Institute.
Attendance varied over the years, but by 1914 the institute had seventy students who were taught by three Black teachers while Mebane’s wife served as principal.
In the early 1920s, Hot Springs built a public school for Black students. The Presbyterian Board of Missions at the same time was evaluating which schools it could continue to support and began closing financially struggling schools where public schools were available. Mebane Academy closed in the late ‘20s.
To learn more, visit the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.