Community High School students & staff gather at the Michigan Theater to watch the documentary “There Went the Neighborhood: The Closing of Jones School”

Community High School students and staff left the school Wednesday morning for a journey through Ann Arbor’s past. The destination? The historic Michigan Theater, where they would watch a powerful documentary that delves into the city’s complex history of desegregation and its lasting impacts.

The film, titled “There Went the Neighborhood: The Closing of Jones School,” is an exploration of the 1965 decision by the Ann Arbor Board of Education to close the majority-Black Jones School, a move that was part of a nationwide trend of school desegregation during the Civil Rights Era.

Jones School was an anchor of Ann Arbor’s historically Black neighborhood until it closed in 1965. It reopened as Community High School in 1972. When Community celebrated the building’s 100th anniversary last year, the history of Jones School was a strong focus.

Produced by the Ann Arbor District Library and 7 Cylinders Studio (7CS), the documentary features interviews with former Jones students and Black community leaders, capturing their memories of the school and the neighborhood that once thrived in the area now known as Kerrytown and Water Hill. Through firsthand accounts, archival photographs, and a filmed walking tour, the film offers a poignant exploration of a pivotal chapter in Ann Arbor’s history.

After the 40-minute screening, the CHS community engaged in a Q&A session with the film’s director, three Jones School alum who were featured in the film, and AADL librarian Heidi Morse, allowing for a deeper understanding of the film’s message and the stories behind its making.

Community High School social studies teacher Joslyn Hunscher-Young said the event was an example of what makes Community High a community-centered school. 

“We were able to take our whole school into a shared meeting place, the Michigan Theater, recognizing the important role our surrounding community plays in the education of our students,” she says. “While there we learned about the history of the building and neighborhood we learn and work in each day, and when we returned to the school building, we engaged in thoughtful and meaningful conversation about what it means to be part of a community and what kind of community we hope to build together. This was a powerful way for our students and staff to extend our learning from our building-wide work last year to celebrate 100 years of Jones School and Black Ann Arbor.”

Left to right, the panelists are: Donald Harrison, director of the film; Cheryl (Jewett) O’Neal, Jones alum, 5th generation Ann Arborite; Jean Winborn, Jones alum; Roger Brown (Jones alum, also attended Community High School; Heidi Morse, AADL librarian and archivist who helped on the film.

Following the Q&A, the students and staff returned to CHS, where they continued their exploration of this important local history in their forum groups.

Hunscher-Young said the documentary helped remind viewers of the work yet to be done, which includes installing a permanent historical marker about this history.

“This marker is an important part of a much larger and deeper process of recognizing the past to make better informed, more inclusive, and more just decisions about our present and future,” she says. “We hope to be able to permanently install and formally dedicate the historical marker this fall.”

The documentary is project is part of Ann Arbor 200, AADL’s commemoration of the city’s bicentennial year. To watch the film: click here.

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