Hosanna School Museum in Darlington, the first of three Freedmen’s Bureau schoolhouses in Harford County, celebrates its 150th anniversary with a 7 p.m. banquet on Friday, April 7 at APG Federal Credit Union Arena at Harford Community College.

Dr. Freeman Hrabowski III, president of UMBC and one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, will give the keynote address.

In addition, the banquet will feature a sit-down dinner, live musical entertainment and a book signing of “Holding Fast to Dreams: Empowering Youth From the Civil Rights Crusade to STEM Achievement” by Dr. Hrabowski. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the celebration takes place from 7 to 11 p.m.

“We are honored to have Dr. Freeman Hrabowski as the keynote speaker at Hosanna School Museum’s 150th anniversary celebration,” said Iris Leigh Barnes, executive director. “His speaking is significant because in the same way the first teachers of Hosanna School were committed to providing education and changing lives in untold ways for African Americans — committed sometimes to the point of putting their lives on the line — Dr. Hrabowski is equally committed to providing educational opportunities for today’s black youth, particularly males, through STEM programs. The transformative power of education was understood by our teachers at Hosanna and continues today under leaders such as Dr. Hrabowski.”

Tickets to the banquet cost $60 per person and may be ordered by visiting hosannaschoolmuseum.org. For more information, call 410-457-4161.

Proceeds from the banquet will be used to continue to preserve Hosanna School Museum and support interpretative and educational programming. The banquet’s sponsors include Harford County Government.

Hosanna School, also known as the Berkley School, was built on land owned by James Paca, the son of Cupid Paca, a free African American who bought 50 acres of land from Berkley to Darlington.

The Freedmen’s Bureau funded the construction of the two-story frame building, which was used as a school, community meeting place and church. Operation of the school was assumed by the Harford County School Commissioners in 1879. Hosanna remained active as a schoolhouse for African American children until 1945.

Three years later, in 1948, Hosanna Community House, Inc. (current owner) was formed. The school building was used as a community meeting place until the late 1950s when Hurricane Hazel sheared off the top floor. With limited funds, the board preserved what was left of the building by placing a roof on the remaining structure. After these repairs, the building was once again a community center, used primarily by the Boys Scouts.

Significant restoration of the building began in 1983, and the second floor was added in 2005, returning it to its original two-story structure. Currently it is a living schoolhouse museum, attracting visitors from all over the country. The building is also used for community meetings and events.

To preserve additional African American history in Harford County, in 2016 Hosanna School Museum acquired McComas Institute, an adjacent cemetery and Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Joppa.

McComas Institute, built in 1867 and on the National Register of Historic Places, was one of the first three Freedmen’s Bureau schoolhouses in Harford County. Mount Zion United Methodist Church, built in 1865, is adjacent to McComas Institute. The church’s leadership and congregation were instrumental in the founding and management of McComas Institute.

Community members and businesses interested in helping to preserve history and educate generations to come about the contributions by African Americans in Harford County are encouraged to make a donation through the website at hosannaschoolmuseum.org or by sending a check (made payable to Hosanna School Museum) to P.O. Box 305, Darlington, Md. 21034.

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