The former Phillis Wheatley High School in Houston's Fifth Ward has withstood hurricanes and endured segregation.
HOUSTON - The former Phillis Wheatley High School in Houston's Fifth Ward has withstood hurricanes and endured segregation.
But now may be its darkest hour. Demolition began this weekend.
"There is a lot of history in this building," said Ida Powell, graduate. "This building educated many."
Once one of the largest Black high schools in the country, the school's notable alumni included the late Barbara Jordan.
But over the years, the facility became lost in the cracks amid declining enrollment and redistricting.
Today, the HISD is ready to see it come down so the land can be repurposed. Some alumni are not.
"It needs to be preserved, "said Debra Blacklocke-Sloan, who is fighting to save the building. "So many people walked through this building. That's what this building is here for, so we can remember our past, remember our history."
They say they were promised at least the shell of the building would be spared and they feel deceived.
"We don't have any problems compromising and negotiating. We want to do that, but we just don't want you to blatantly disrespect us and lie," said Dr. Youletta McCullough, who is trying to preserve the structure.
She is among several community activists who have formed a group called the Historic Wheatley/EO Smith Preservation Coalition. They are planning legal action to try to keep any more of the building from coming down.
A spokesperson for HISD could not be immediately reached for comment Monday, which was Labor Day.