Crooms Academy confronts the role of preparing students for a high tech world,
it emerges on the grounds of one of the oldest high schools in Seminole County.
Founded in 1926 by Professor Crooms as Seminole County's first high school for
black students, Crooms has a rich and varied past. Professor Crooms and his
wife, Wealthy, donated the land on which the school was constructed. Under
their guidance and teaching, many doctors, lawyers, teachers, and business
people graduated from Crooms.
graduates include U.S. Representative Alcee Hastings; George Allen, the first
black graduate of the University of Florida Law School; Oswald Bronson Sr.,
president of Bethune-Cookman College; and Bob Thomas, Sanford's first black
city commissioner. Professor Crooms led Crooms Academy until his retirement in
1970 Seminole County was desegregated and Crooms lost its identity as a
community high school. Its role changed several times and has included an
administrative center, a school for students with behavior problems, and a
place for pregnant teenagers. Most recently, it was a school for academically
struggling students. In 1973 the original building burned and in the past years
the other school buildings have deteriorated. In 2000, the U.S. Justice
Department agreed to lift Seminole's desegregation order by 2003 if the county
met certain conditions. Included in this is rebuilding Crooms Academy and
turning it into an academy of information technology.
Crooms is remembered as a man ahead of his times as he broke educational
boundaries for black students in Seminole County. Today, Crooms Academy remains
in this tradition as it establishes new territory in technology education at
the high school level.
Among the graduates of Georgetown
School and Hopper Academy were those who went on to become lawyers, nurses,
doctors, dentists, musicians, band leaders and business leaders.
The one who left behind the biggest
legacy, though, was Joseph Nathaniel Crooms. The histories of Hopper and Crooms
academies are intertwined in his pioneer Sanford family.
Crooms, known throughout the state
as Professor J.N. Crooms, was principal at Hopper Academy from 1906 to 1926.
The schoolhouse that stands today was built under his guidance in 1910 on the site
he selected, according to historian Brenda Elloitt.
With his wife, Wealthy Mabel Crooms,
as assistant principal of a new school that opened in 1926 on land they donated
in Goldsboro, Crooms became principal of his namesake school. Crooms Academy
was the first in Sanford for black students who went beyond the 10th grade.
Crooms' father, Moses Crooms Sr.,
and his mother, Dafney F. Crooms, had come to Sanford in the 1880s from
Monticello. His wife was the daughter of Israel Sheridan and Wealthy Richardson
of Winter Park.
They were among the former slaves
who migrated to Central Florida following the Civil War. Crooms became a
well-known carpenter. Two of their sons became pastors; a third became a
The fourth became a well-respected
J.N. Crooms attended Johnson Academy
in Orlando (now Jones High School) and the Florida Normal College in
Tallahassee (now Florida A&M University), where he earned his degree. He
also trained at the Hampton Institute in Virginia and the Florida Institute in
Live Oak. He taught in Cocoa and Suwanee County before returning to Sanford in
1906 to live on Sanford Avenue in Georgetown.
Crooms, while principal at Hopper,
also taught piano - using a ruler to rap students' knuckles whenever they hit a
sour note - played for churches and trained choirs. He also was a Sunday school
superintendent and secretary of the Florida State Baptist Convention. He held
professional offices in local and state educational associations.
Wealthy Crooms attended Winter Park
schools and trained at several colleges. She also taught in Volusia County at
Bethune School for Girls and at Hopper and Crooms academies beginning in 1908.
The Crooms family provided the 7 1/2
acres for Crooms Academy, a 40-by-60 foot school on west 13th Street.
The School Board eventually
purchased the Crooms site. Under Crooms' administration, the school added
vocational and industrial art and home economics training. It became Crooms
High School in 1961. Fire destroyed the original building in 1973.
Crooms, who received an honorary law
degree in 1950 from Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, taught school until
1953, four years before his death. His wife died in 1983.
Crooms Academy was constructed in 1926 at the
extreme western end of 13th Street in Sanford, Seminole County, Florida. The
site for the building was chosen by Professor J.N. Crooms and the members of
the Seminole County School Board of Public Instruction because of the westward
movement by the Black population of this community, once known as the “Celery
Both the late T.W. Lawton, Superintendent of Public
Instruction, and the School Board members named the school “CROOMS ACADEMY” in
honor of Professor and Mrs. J.N. Crooms, as a result of their dedicated
leadership abilities and other services rendered for the educational
development of the Black youth in both Sanford and the Seminole County area.
Professor Crooms was appointed Principal, and his wife, Mrs. W.R. Crooms, was
appointed Assistant Principal.
As a result of dedicated teachers and administrators
at Crooms, many sons and daughters can proudly look back with pride and fond
memories of Crooms Academy High School.
The Joseph Nathaniel Crooms mss. consist of
documents related to Crooms Academy named for J.N. Crooms, whose parents were slaves
on a Tallahassee area plantation, and who, along with his wife, Wealthy Mabel
Crooms, started the school Crooms Academy and were its first principal and
assistant principal respectively. J.N. Crooms personally purchased 7.5 acres in
order to expand the school as it grew (it was later purchased by the school
board). Crooms’ staff included Grace Hankerson, Eva Handy, Maude Collins,
Mattie Bolden, Cedar Mason Neal, Katherine Holly, Viola Cave and others.
The three members of its first graduating class in
1931 were: Willie Fields Feacher, Joseph White and Suzie Davis.The Crooms
Academy began operation in 1920. From
1920 until 1970, the Crooms Academy continued to bring a great educational
experience to all those that attended. The school produced leaders for us today
in business, politics, sports, and many other areas of professional life.
Mr. Crooms also worked with Mary Jane Mcleod-Bethune
as members of the Welricha Corp., which owned a beach front motel and
restaurant on Bethune-Volusia Beach, as well as the Florida Negro Teachers
Association. By the advent of his death, Mr. Crooms was considered one a
pioneer for Negro education in the state of Florida.
The Crooms Family.
Moses Crooms Sr. was an ex-slave who came to Central Florida with a road
building company in 1890. With his wife, Daphne H. Crooms, an ex-house slave
from a Tallahassee plantation, he bought land on Washington Street, where he
built a house in 1905. Among his children, the Rev. Moses Crooms Jr., owned a
delivery and moving service and served as pastor of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist
Church in 1941. The Rev. Alfred C. Crooms, owner of a print shop and book
store, was Mt. Zion’s pastor in 1945-1946. Professor J.N. Crooms became
principal of Hopper Academy in Sanford in 1906. The school was renamed for him
in 1926, and Columbus H. Crooms, was mayor of Eatonville, 1938-1963
Historic Goldsboro was the second all
African American town in Florida, incorporated in 1891. William Clark was
the founder of Goldsboro, with the support of William Walden, J.W. Small,
Joseph White, and William Boykins. For twenty years Goldsboro was a prospering
city with its own government, shops, churches, and schools. Included in the
bustling business district was Goldsboro's own town council, jail, tax
collector, and police and fire department. The town was ½ mile square
bordered by 10th Street and Clark, Mulberry, and Harrison Avenues.
Goldsboro lost its identity as a city when the
powerful white leaders, along with Mayor Forrest Lake of Sanford dissolved
Goldsboro's City Charter. In April of 1911 the town of Goldsboro was forcibly
annexed by Sanford. Street names in Goldsboro were renamed to conform to
Sanford's street grid.
In 1926 Crooms Academy of Information Technology
was constructed and named by the Board of Education out of appreciation for the
sacrifices of the principal Joseph Nathaniel Crooms and hist wife.
Crooms Academy was founded as a High School for African American students.
Professor J.N. Crooms was principal from 1926- 1956.
The Goldsboro Historic Museum was opened in
October of 2011 by the Goldsboro Westside Community Historical Association to
honor the 100 year demise of the city of Goldsboro. The Goldsboro Museum
collects and celebrates the heritage of the community. The museum
highlights the rich history of Goldsboro with emphasis on the early pioneers,
through special exhibits of collected historic materials and through the
education and display of arts.
The museum is located at 1211 Historic Goldsboro
Blvd. Sanford, Florida. After the creation of the museum there were two street
name changes to Goldsboro.In 2013, Lake Avenue, which had been renamed for
Sanford’s mayor and legislator Forrest Lake, was officially renamed William
Clark Avenue in honor of one of Goldsboro’s founders. The other name change is
the West side of 13th street was renamed Historic Goldsboro Blvd. to mark
the community of Goldsboro.
The Pathways to History
tours will continue to evolve as more research is conducted, check back
periodically for updated information.
Education In Goldsboro & Sanford
As early as 1870,
the black children of prosperous families attended private schools, mostly
church sponsored, in Goldsboro,Sanford and surrounding towns.
The dates below identify when these schools were established
Sanford's oldest school for black student's was located in the Georgetown
community called The Georgetown School. Sanford was then a part of Orange
County. Parent's would buy the books and supplies, and the teacher paid for
other materials or raised the money from the community. The school moved
to a new facility " in 1906 and the name was changed to "Hopper
1906- Joseph N. Crooms
was made principal of "Hopper Academy" in Georgetown.
In 1909- a
1908/09 teacher's report shows 34 male and 29 female in the Goldsboro School
located on Goldsboro Avenue. The principal was Mr. Chase E. Martin
In 1916 - Goldsboro
Elementary School was built on 16th street. It was a one room schoolhouse
some of the children went to school in the Triumph Church of God and Christ
church at corner of 15th street.
In 1926 - Crooms
Academy was erected on 13th Street. It was named after Professor Joseph
Nathaniel Crooms, because of the fine job he did at Hopper Academy. where
his wife, Wealthy Mabel Crooms was the Assistant Principal. Prof.
J.N.Crooms' parents were enslaved on the Goodwood Plantation in Tallahassee,
Prof. Crooms was a well respected Florida educator who installed many
innovative ideas, such as extending the school year.