The Last One Standing

Wechsler School, a historic school in Meridian, Mississippi,  was erected in 1894. The school was the first brick public school building in Mississippi built with public funds for African-American children. It originally served primary through eighth grades but was later expanded to include high school as well. The school was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and designated a Mississippi Landmark in 1993.


Early public education in Meridian was based on the 1870 Mississippi Constitution. From 1870-1885, trustees appointed by the City Council served on the Board of School Directors, which had authority to operate the schools. The first public school for African Americans in the city was held in facilities rented from St. Paul Methodist Church. The Mississippi legislature amended the city charter in January 1888 to allow the city to maintain its own municipal school district, and in March of the same year $30,000 in bonds was approved for the city to build new public schools.


In 1894 when Wechsler was built, 30% of the children in the city were African American. Because of this growing number, $15,000 was used to purchase the grounds on which the building now stands. After the bond was approved in February 1894, the school was named after Rabbi Judah Wechsler, formerly of Congregation Beth Israel, who had helped raise interest in building the school.


Though the first brick school for African Americans in the state of Mississippi was Union School in Natchez, Mississippi built in 1872, Wechsler School became the first brick public school built for African Americans in Mississippi with public funding.