February 22, 2017
Superintendent A. Russell Hughes was the Grand Marshal for the Black History Parade in Defuniak Springs on Saturday, February 18, 2017. The parade was one of multiple activities held to celebrate February as Black History Month. The parade route ended in food, fun, and fellowship at the Tivoli Complex, formerly Tivoli High School - Home of the Tivoli Tigers.
Tivoli High School, currently the home of the Walton County School District Administrative offices, wasn’t the first black school in Walton County, but it was the first high school.
According to documentation by the Tivoli Historical Society, the Tivoli was an elementary and junior high school from 1908 until 1935. It was one of the more than 5,000 Rosenwald Schools, which were schools built in the south, predominately for the education of African American children. The program was the result of a partnership between Julius Rosenwald, president and part owner of Sears, Roebuck and Company, and African American educator, author and presidential advisor, Booker T. Washington. There were two other Rosenwald schools in the area in Argyle and Bruce Creek. The school became Tivoli High School in 1935, adding a grade level each year until 12th grade was finally added in 1937-38. By 1958, the total enrollment for Tivoli was 424 students. The school had an active athletic program, with an award winning football team, as well as a marching band.
“Tivoli High School was the heart of the black community,” said Eddie Williamson, President of the Tivoli Historical Society, Inc. “We’ve had engineers, architects, lawyers and doctors graduate from this school…and we love to bring back our alumni so they can see all that we have accomplished.”
The Tivoli Historical Society, Inc. works tirelessly to keep the memories of life at Tivoli School alive. They have an active tutorial program for African American students in Walton County, and also have a scholarship program to provide opportunities for continued education after high school graduation. The Tivoli Historical Society has also created a museum located in the main Tivoli School building at 145 Park Street, Defuniak Springs, Fl., which now houses the WCSD administrative offices.
Submitted by Keitha Bledsoe.