Piney Woods Country Life School

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Piney Woods Country Life School
Piney Woods Country Life School is located in Mississippi
Piney Woods Country Life School
Piney Woods Country Life School
Coordinates32°03′44″N 89°59′41″W / 32.0623401°N 89.9948113°W / 32.0623401; -89.9948113Coordinates: 32°03′44″N 89°59′41″W / 32.0623401°N 89.9948113°W / 32.0623401; -89.9948113 -->
TypePrivate, boarding
MottoHead, Heart, & Hands
Religious affiliation(s)Christian
PresidentWilliam Crossley
EnrollmentApproximately 250
Campus size2,000 acres (810 ha)
Last updated: 29 December 2017

The Piney Woods Country Life School (or The Piney Woods School) is a co-educational independent historically African-American boarding school for grades 9-12 in Piney Woods, unincorporated Rankin County, Mississippi. It is 21 miles (34 km) south of Jackson.[1] It is one of four remaining historically African-American boarding schools in the United States. It is currently the largest African-American boarding school, as well as being the second oldest continually operating African-American boarding school.


The Piney Woods School was founded in 1909 by Laurence C. Jones.[2] Jones added the Mississippi School of the Blind for Negroes in the early 1920s, and in 1929, with the arrival of Martha Louise Morrow Foxx serving as principal, the Mississippi Blind School for Negroes was founded at Piney Woods. The school eventually moved to an urban location in Jackson, Mississippi.[citation needed]

Piney Woods was where the International Sweethearts of Rhythm were formed, by Jones, in 1937.[3] The band included jazz musician Helen Jones, the daughter of the school's founder.

Other bands associated with the school included the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi and the Cotton Blossom Singers. Beginning in the 1930s the school also sponsored baseball teams as part of the fund-raising efforts.[4]

The school was presided over for more than 60 years by Jones, until 1974 when Dr. James S. Wade became the second president. Charles Beady led the school for more than 20 years, and today the school is presided over by Dr. Reginald T.W. Nichols.[5]

In 1954 Jones appeared on the This Is Your Life television show.[6] During the show the host asked viewers to each send in $1 to support the school,[7] eventually raising $700,000,[8] with which Jones began the schools' endowment fund, reported to be at $7,000,000 when Jones died in 1975.[citation needed]

Since then the school has conducted a number of notable publicity and fundraising activities. A variety of speakers have spoken at the school, including George Washington Carver,[9] LeRoy T. Walker and Mike Espy. Wynton Marsalis played a benefit performance for the school in 1994, as well. Morley Safer reported on the school in 1992 and again in 2005 for the CBS television show, 60 Minutes.[10]


Today the curriculum at Piney Woods combines strict discipline, Christian teaching and chores with classroom instruction. More than 98 percent of Piney Woods' graduates go on to attend colleges, including Kings College (Pennsylvania), Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, Xavier University, Rice University, Jackson State University, Tougaloo College, Howard University, Xavier University of Louisiana, Princeton University, the University of Chicago, University of the South, Smith College, Harvard University, Vassar College, Tufts University, University of California at Los Angeles, University of Maryland, Texas Southern University, and Amherst College .[11][12]

The Piney Woods campus is located 21 miles (34 km) southeast of Jackson, Mississippi. It sits on 2,000 acres (810 ha) of rolling hills, forest, open fields and lakes. Funded by donations and a significant endowment, the school houses 300 high school students in grades 9 through 12 from more than 20 states, Mexico, the Caribbean and several African nations. The self-sufficient campus includes a post office, a farm, athletic fields, chapel and amphitheater.[13]

Notable alumni and faculty[edit]


  1. ^ Copeland, Larry. "Black private school serves as rural refuge / Discipline and calm helps students flourish." Knight-Ridder Tribune News at the Houston Chronicle. Sunday September 28, 1997. A40. Retrieved on December 2, 2011.
  2. ^ African-Americans at the University of Iowa Archived 2008-02-19 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Handy, A. (1998). The International Sweethearts Of Rhythm: The Ladies Jazz Band From Piney Woods Country Life School. Scarecrow Press.
  4. ^ Wilson, L.K. "The Singing Baseball Team." Negro Leagues Writings; retrieved February 16, 2008.
  5. ^ "History", Piney Woods Country Life School; retrieved February 16, 2008.
  6. ^ "Miracle of Piney Woods - Mississippi school built on faith has rich harvest", Ebony magazine, October 1955, pp. 36-41.
  7. ^ "The Week in Review", Time magazine. December 27, 1954. Retrieved 2/16/08.
  8. ^ Schmidt, D.A. (2002) Iowa Pride. Xulon Press. p 209.
  9. ^ "Helen Jones Woods",; retrieved February 16, 2008.
  10. ^ "Piney Woods: An academic oasis." June 29, 2005; retrieved February 16, 2008.
  11. ^ Mitchell, M.A. (1998) "Black schools bolstered by remarkable gestures," Chicago Sun-Times. March 22, 1998.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Roach, R. (2003) "A rich, but disappearing legacy: Remembering Black boarding schools: a tradition obscured by desegregation's impact." Black Issues in Higher Education. August 14, 2003.
  14. ^ (2006) "Piney Woods prepares for centennial by reaching back to alumni", Mississippi Link. Retrieved 2/16/08.

External links[edit]