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Rally shows students history of Beulah Rucker Museum
School was in operation until 1958 when students were transferred to Fair Street
Eleven-year-old Tori Bailey provides background music Saturday during the fourth annual Back to School Rally at the Beulah Rucker Museum in Gainesville. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Families flocked Saturday to the Beulah Rucker Museum's Back to School Rally for the fourth year in a row, but this time they came to a different location.

Instead of the Georgia Mountains Center, where the rally was held in the past, attendees went to the museum itself for school supplies, a cookout and some history lessons.

"Most of the kids don't understand what Beulah Rucker stood for back in the day," said Rojene Bailey, grandson of Beulah Rucker Oliver and executive director of the museum.

"A lot of the old people went to school back here."

The museum holds a classroom from the school — which operated until 1958, when students were transferred to Fair Street School — and letters, artifacts and timelines chronicling the history of African-American education in Hall County.

"She was a teacher and on the weekends she went down to Gainesville to sell stuff they made," said Zaria Borders, 11, a sixth-grader at Gainesville Middle School.

Getting a history lesson wasn't the only thing students got to do at the rally. In between museum tours, chowing down on hamburgers and hot dogs and listening to music provided by DJ Push, kids participated in the Georgia Child Identification Program put on by the state's Masonic lodges.

Masons from the Gainesville, Flowery Branch, Hall County and Dacula lodges were on hand, creating identification kits for parents in case of child abductions.

"We get the height, weight, things the kids are interested in and where they might go if they left," said Russell Gee, worshipful master for the Gainesville lodge.

"We take a sample of DNA and we fingerprint them. We put this on a CD and give all of the information back to the parents."

Gee said volunteers could register about 100 kids in the time the Back to School Rally took place.

Gainesville resident Pamela McNeal, formerly of Chicago, brought her daughter and niece to the rally to get them away from the TV and teach them something.

"I didn't even know there was a school here," she said. "I was shocked."

The rally was the first time many attendees visited the museum.

Zynique Borders, 10, a fifth-grader at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School, came to visit with her church group. She and her friends were most amazed at the size of the classrooms and the desks.

"It was pretty small," said Takema Waller, 14, an eighth-grader at Gainesville Middle. "You got to do more art stuff back then and there are bathrooms outside, not inside."

The girls said they couldn't imagine going to class at the old schoolhouse on Athens Highway.

"We want them to get an understanding of what education was like back then and some of the odds she faced," Bailey said. "A lot of people didn't like the idea of a woman opening a school, especially a black woman. But she persevered."