BEDFORD — A historical marker recognizing the former Susie G. Gibson High School — now the Susie G. Gibson Science and Technology Center at 600 Edmund St. in Bedford — will be placed along the Town of Bedford right-of-way in front of the Bedford Area Welcome Center.
The Bedford County Board of Supervisors on Monday unanimously voted to finalize the historical marker’s location. It will be the first such marker in Bedford County recognizing a person or place in the African American community and of significance to local Black history.
The Susie G. Gibson Legacy Inc., with many alumni of Susie G. Gibson High School, spearheaded the movement to preserve and teach Gibson’s legacy in the community and beyond in efforts such as reestablishing Susie Gibson’s name on the school’s site and applying for the historical marker, which was approved through the Virginia Department of Historic Resources in 2019. After getting on the Virginia Landmarks Register, Susie G. Gibson High School was also added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Members of the Susie G. Gibson Legacy organization met with Bedford County and town officials to discuss where to place the historical marker. After considering options of either placing the marker at the school or elsewhere, officials and the legacy group opted for a location with heavier traffic, giving the site maximum visibility, said Robert Hiss, Bedford County administrator.
Information about Susie Gibson and the historic school also will be available at the welcome center.
“So many people will now learn about the history. A lot of people did not know, and they are just now finding out,” said Harriet Nellum Hurt, co-founder of the Susie G. Gibson Legacy Group and an alumnus of Susie G. Gibson High School, class of 1965, in a previous interview.
Constructed between 1953 and 1954 under the notion of “separate but equal” education, Susie G. Gibson High School was the first new high school in Bedford built for students of color during the era of segregation, years prior to federally mandated integration. The institution was named after a pillar in the Black community, Susie G. Gibson.
Susie G. Gibson was a local teacher and activist who spent 22 years as Bedford County’s supervisor of African American education. She oversaw about 29 Black schools in the area all while continuing her own education, said Jennifer Thomson, of the Bedford Museum & Genealogical Library, who is an avid researcher of Gibson. The daughter of parents born into slavery and freed as children, Gibson was a leader in the campaign to establish a high school for Black students in Bedford.
Gibson also was known as a well-respected “liaison between the races” in Bedford and surrounding areas, according to Thomson and Hurt.
“She was just an amazingly awesome person. Everybody everywhere should know about this woman,” Thomson said of Gibson in a previous interview.
“Congratulations on that,” said District 5 Supervisor and board chairman Tommy Scott. “I think you picked the right location.”
“So many people will now learn about the history. A lot of people did not know, and they are just now finding out.”
— Harriet Nellum Hurt, co-founder of the Susie G. Gibson Legacy Group and an alumnus of Susie G. Gibson High School