For almost 100 years, a small, predominantly African-American school founded in 1915 and operated by a church in the Russell neighborhood has persevered to offer a Christian-based education to generations of students.
In advance of its centennial anniversary next year, the Emma L. Minnis Junior Academy, 1939 Magazine St., held an open house on a recent Sunday afternoon in an effort to boost enrollment and help spread the word about its academic program for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
The private academy is in a $500,000 building constructed in 2010 across from the Magazine Street Seventh Day Adventist Church, which operates it. The church is in a large, brick building with a steeple built in 1954, after it started out on Chesnut Street.
The school was named in 1970 for Minnis (1880-1972), a teacher, principal, musician and piano instructor who also was choral director at Magazine Street Church. She was the great aunt of Louisville educator Bernard Minnis, 72, a retired assistant superintendent for Jefferson County Public Schools and now an assistant professor of education at Bellarmine University.
Emma Lewis Minnis was the youngest of nine children of Madison Beaumont Minnis (1833-1884) — who was born into slavery — and his wife, Elizabeth Turner Minnis. He became a leader in Louisville’s black community and helped found Fifth Street Baptist Church, thought to be the first Baptist church in Louisville for African Americans. When Madison Minnis died, the Jefferson County Courthouse flag was lowered. Elizabeth Minnis was a private piano teacher who later held meetings in her home for charter members — including a number of educators — of what became the Magazine Street Church.
The school met in the basement of the church in the early days, and was at several other locations, too, including the former Strother School building on Dixie Highway, the former Carter Elementary School that now houses the West End School on Virginia Avenue and in the basement of New Life Seventh-day Adventist Church on Taylor Boulevard, immediately before it moved to the Magazine Street building.
Source: USA Today | Martha Elson