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Crooms Academy 


As 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.

Notable 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 1953.

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.

Professor 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 carpenter.

The fourth became a well-respected educator.

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 Belt”.

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.

 

Crooms Family

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


Goldsboro

 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.


TIMELINE

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

In 1885- 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 Academy" 

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.


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