Mr. Joseph N. Crooms started his local career as a teacher and principal of the 7th Street Elementary School and in 1910, he was transferred to Hopper Academy, both schools were located in the Georgetown Community. Along with his wife, Mrs. Wealthy Crooms, an educator, they both raised money to complete the newly built Hopper Academy, purchased books to enlarge the curriculum to include 1st-7th grade, bought playground equipment, and beautified the grounds with lighting and trees. Mr. Crooms taught at Hopper Academy for over 15 years.
In 1926 Crooms Academy was constructed and named by the Board of Education for the appreciation of sacrifices and to honor Mr. Crooms as the Principal of Hopper Academy and the newest Seminole County High School for Black Children. After the school was built, Mr. Crooms purchased the adjoining 7-1/2 acres and rented it to the Seminole County School Board for Social Studies, English and Home Economic classes.
Mr. Crooms last and telling effort was to raise funds, to meet the needs of the youth and fill the gaps of positive prevention to school accreditation. For Croom’s Academy to be accredited, the school needed a library and a certified librarian. Mr. Crooms made his voice heard by teachers, students, parents, churches, and the business community in Seminole County, until he met his goal of $7,300.
Mr. Croom’s words at the dedication of the new library were “this is a memorial library to the Negroes of Sanford, Seminole County, Florida and elsewhere.”
In 1970, all schools in Seminole County by the order of the Federal Government had to be integrated. There were to be no more segregated schools in Sanford or Seminole County. Croom’s Academy was on the list to be closed.
A group of Ku Klux Klan members in Sanford tried to burn down the school, to stop white’s from attending classes at Croom’s Academy. The Klan was unsuccessful in their efforts, and again the Seminole County School Board decided to close the door on Croom’s Academy.
In 1984 the Concerned Citizen Task Force- A group of African Americans from Sanford and Seminole engaged the Orlando Law firm of Norris Woolfork, to utilize legal action against the Seminole County School Board. The Letter to the Seminole County School Board was signed by Mrs. Martha Mckinney, Chairwoman of the Concerned Citizens Task Force.
In May of 1985, the Seminole County School Board was found guilty and told to uphold the Federal Court of the Middle District of Florida’s ruling. Two years after the Judge’s verdict, the doors of Croom’s Academy were open to all students.
Mrs.Martha Mckinney, Mr.Earl C. Myers, Mr.Calvin Collins, Jr., Mr.Willie King, and Mr.Billy Lewis, were designated as Amicus Curiae by the Middle District of the Court of Florida.
To learn more about the history and legacy of Mr. Joseph N. Crooms and Croom’s Academy, please visit the Croom’s Academy Memorabilia Museum @ 1215 Historic Goldsboro Blvd. Sanford, FL 32771 or www.goldsboromuseum.com
Photo Credit: Croom’s Academy Memorabilia Museum
Mr. Joseph N. Crooms
Mrs. Wealthy R. Crooms
Croom’s Academy- Class of 1940