The Hooper-Renwick School in Lawrenceville, Georgia, has a long and significant history within the Black community of Gwinnett County. Before the desegregation of schools in the 1960s, it was the only school that Black students in the county were sent to receive their education. In the decades following desegregation, the building had served various other purposes, but its future was uncertain.
Seven years ago, the building was facing the possibility of being demolished to make way for redevelopment in downtown Lawrenceville. However, alumni of the school pushed for the building to be preserved due to its historical significance to Gwinnett County’s Black community. In response to this, the city of Lawrenceville established the Hooper-Renwick Legacy Preservation Committee in 2016 to find a way to preserve the memory of the school.
This led to an agreement between Gwinnett County, the county’s library system, and the city of Lawrenceville, who owned the property, to expand the building and turn it into a new library that would commemorate the school. The committee then spent years reviewing possible layouts and plans for the conversion before finding one that preserved the school and its memory while also enabling it to serve a new educational purpose.
The groundbreaking ceremony for what will be Gwinnett’s first themed-library was a momentous occasion for the community held in October 2022. Theresa Bailey, who chaired the city of Lawrenceville’s Hooper-Renwick Preservation Committee, expressed her excitement and emotion at the event. “To say that we’re excited is just an understatement,” she said. “My heart inside is pumping and doing flips… This is both exciting and emotional for us.”
Remembering what Gwinnett County’s Black students went through when schools were still segregated and coming to terms with the legacy of segregation is very important for future generations. Hooper-Renwick’s students did not have the newest textbooks or classroom equipment that their white counterparts in Gwinnett County schools had at the time. However, despite these challenges, graduates of the school went on to have successful careers, such as doctors, judges, teachers, lawyers, and secret service agents.
The library will serve as a place where visitors can learn about the history of Gwinnett’s Black community as a whole and further highlight and celebrate the diverse community. Gwinnett County Library Board of Trustees Chairwoman Wandy Taylor stated, “We want this new library to become a space to bring all people together for much-needed conversations, tough conversations, healing conversations.”
The transformation of the Hooper-Renwick School into a themed library is a significant event in the history of Lawrenceville and Gwinnett County.