The stars shine brighter in Halifax County, VA

Mary M. Bethune High School

Mary Bethune High School

The Banister Baptist Association built a private African
American training school in 1827, originally consisting of four wooden
buildings and a dormitory. The school met only six months of the year and went
through ninth grade. Because of transportation difficulties in a county as
large as Halifax, the school was primarily a boarding school. Board cost $200 a
year, which was prohibitive for most Blacks at the time.

In 1920 the four original buildings were torn down and a new
building was erected to house African American high school students; the school was newly
called Halifax Training School. Later it was upgraded and renamed the Mary M.
Bethune High School. By 1950 it was the state’s largest rural high school for

While the school had no running water in science labs, little
money for equipment and supplies, and no means of transportation, a national
magazine reported that 27 of the 64 seniors went on to college, far above the
national average of 20 percent at that time.

In 1956, to meet “separate but equal” standards and stave off
integration in the face of court decisions, the county erected the present
building, officially named the Mary M. Bethune High School of Halifax County.

Despite the county’s efforts otherwise, the school became the
hub of the local integration movement in 1969. After integration in 1970, Mary
M. Bethune became a junior high school. All county high school students — Black
and white — began attending Halifax Senior High School.

The original Mary M. Bethune High School building was later
renovated and renamed the Mary M. Bethune Government Office Complex. The complex provides
services for the community and houses
the school system administration.

Contact Information

1030 Mary Bethune Street, Halifax, VA 24558