The fertile farmland of Franklinton Center at Bricks contains both tragedy and hope. The acres where tobacco and cotton once were harvested were part of a plantation known as the place to break unruly slaves. Through the ashes of that pre-Civil War horror, hope in the form of educational opportunity and leadership development was cultivated.
Franklinton Center at Bricks grew out of the union of two separate entities: Bricks School, founded by the American Missionary Association, and Franklinton Christian College. The schools merged in 1954.
Franklinton Christian College was started by the James O'Kelly Christian Church in 1871 to train black leaders for local churches. Similarly, Julia Bricks established the Bricks Junior College in 1895 through a gift of land and endowment to the American Missionary Association. The AMA, begun by Congregationalists, opened schools across the South following the Civil War. Many of its schools still exist, including the UCC-related historically Black colleges. Today, the work of the AMA continues through the United Church of Christ.
In the 21st century, Franklinton Center at Bricks plays a significant role in the education and nurture of church and community leaders, justice advocates, and young people. The Center hosts and trains visiting groups on social justice issues, and also serves the local community. The center weaves rural justice, hunger issues, environmental racism, and workers’ rights into its programmatic focus.
Franklinton Center at Bricks still holds reminders of the past: two buildings from the original school still exist, as does a magnolia tree that marks where a plantation whipping post once stood. The Bricks Museum at Memorial Hall offers a collection of historical documents that include photographs, paintings, artifacts, journals, and materials from the many lives of the site, including an early 20th-century post office and various schools.
The Center also partners with many area organizations in a variety of outreach programs. The Whitakers area has one of the highest poverty and illiteracy rates in the country, and is the second largest food desert in the United States. As part of its ministry, the center offers youth and adult literacy classes, plus many other programs, including nutrition, sustainable agriculture, environmental awareness, and racial and social injustice.
But just as Franklinton Center transforms local communities, so, too, is the center transforming itself to better serve its constituencies. A new facility opened in 2007, complete with hotel-style lodging and large conference rooms. The Center also sports a new swimming pool and a cafeteria-style dining hall. The newest campaign, launched in 2013, will rehabilitate the one of the original 1895 Bricks School’s teacher’s cottages, located near the main entrance, into a state-of-the-art welcome center.
Through these transformations, Franklinton Center at Bricks is able to offer educational opportunities and workshops on church and community leadership; rural, racial and social justice; spiritual growth and development; and community and family events.