Until this summer, Tanisha Rainey could only imagine her grandmother, Henrietta Rainey, attending Lincoln High School, which is now Lincoln Hall on the OTC Springfield campus.
But now, the first-year OTC student can do more than just dream of her grandmother in Lincoln. Now, she can see her Henrietta’s image any time she wants in a picture taken during the early 1950s that hangs on a wall inside the very building her grandmother attended high school.
The picture shows Henrietta Rainey sitting in a sewing class held at the all-black high school. The picture is part of a display of photos and artifacts from the historic high school that hang in the hall’s largest meeting room.
And until that moment this summer, Tanisha had never seen a picture of her grandmother or even knew it existed.
“I’m proud to know family who used to go to school here,” Tanisha said.
Tanisha, a senior at Central High School who attends OTC classes through the Career Center, is studying Early Childhood Development. She made the photo discovery during student orientation this summer after an OTC staff member told her that there was a picture of her grandmother on the wall.
It was a startling discovery for Tanisha and her aunt, Jeanetta Rainey Smith, the daughter of Henrietta Rainey. Jeanetta Smith’s aunt, Molly, also went to Lincoln but she doesn’t appear in any pictures. Both women are dead, Smith said.
“When I saw the picture, I said, ‘Oh, my God, there she is,’” said Smith, who took classes on the third floor of Lincoln when it was part of the vocational school in the late 1970s prior to the creation of OTC.
Black students in Springfield attended Lincoln High School from 1884 until 1954. In 1954, the public schools in Springfield were integrated and Lincoln was closed.
The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in May 2000. Renovation of historic Lincoln Hall by OTC was completed in 2001. A plaque recognizing the building’s placement on the National Register was unveiled in August 2004.
Smith thought the school building had been leveled years ago and when she came to campus last week to see the photo again, she said she feels like her mother is still there.
“It’s awesome to know that you have pictures of people on the wall and their children and children’s children are walking these halls. It’s an honor that someone would take the time to do this and make this display,” Smith said, who was overcome with emotion while talking about the photo display.
Smith took up sewing thanks to her mother and Tanisha said she is learning a lot from her aunt, Jeanetta.
“I’ve been living with her for a while and she has taught me a lot. I wouldn’t have finished school without her or gone to OTC,” she said.
Steve Koehler is coordinator for media relations at Ozarks Technical Community College.
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