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Marcus Garvey Leadership Academy

Marcus Garvey Leadership Academy

Location Class:
Built: 1927 | Abandoned: 2014
Historic Designation: African American Heritage Site
Status: Abandoned
Photojournalist: Michael SchwarzEmily Cowan

Harmony Public School

Marcus Garvey Leadership Academy
Harmony Public School February 28, 1936.
Marcus Garvey Leadership Academy
Harmony Gym addition ca. 1943

The story of Marcus Garvey Leadership Academy goes back to the 1920s. The $55,000 building was erected in 1927 as Harmony Public School. It opened its doors to students in the January 1928 school year. In its first semester open it hired three new teachers, established a kindergarten for the next semester, welcomed twenty-five new transfer students, and an expansion. One of the old Harmony buildings was moved to the new school as a cafeteria addition to serve hot lunches to students. It gave incredible leadership, growth, and resources to its students through its teachings. In 1943, a brick gymnasium/auditorium was added onto the school allowing the students to participate in more musical and athletic courses. Serving the community for nearly fifty years ownership and name of the school were changed.

Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary

Marcus Garvey Leadership Academy
Martin Luther King Jr. Parade thrown by MLKJr. students in 1986.

It became Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary/5th Year Center in the 70s. The school prided itself on teaching and celebrating Black culture and heritage. In 1986 a parade, play, discussion, and special luncheon was held for slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., on what would have been his 57th birthday at the school who kept his namesake. In fact,  it was the first school in Oklahoma to be named after King. After around thirty years the school became vacant and a search for new tenants was underway.

Marcus Garvey Leadership Charter School

In 2003 Marcus Garvey Charter School was considered to lease the Old Martin Luther King Jr. School. The district board members weighed in on whether they should allow the school to bear the new name of Marcus Garvey and asked the district staff to collect biographical information on Garvey himself and look into the district’s policy on renaming school. Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr. was a Jamaican publisher, journalist, and founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association & African Communities League. It was approved and thus solidifying the new Marcus Garvey Leadership Academy school at the end of 2003. Throughout its years open it continued the legacy of providing students with in-depth teaching of African American heritage and culture. Offering some of the most unique classes in the district. Damon Frazier, musician and teacher of Afrikan Drumming and Rhythms at MGLC. He is credited with creating the Sankofa Drumming Ensemble for the students who played in churches, state-wide events, and OU.

It was open until 2014 serving 197 students in grades Prekindergarten-8 its last year. Its closing came due to low test scores and overall GPA of students reporting an average 1.32 GPA, and a grade of ‘F’ in reading and math test scores although attendance was at 97%. Another reason that led to closing was sexual assault allegations and mismanaged funds. The school district was paying for meals at Marcus Garvey but the school was also receiving federal funds for those same meals. Instead of using the federal funds to pay the school district back, Marcus Garvey Academy kept the money. When district officials pointed out the problem, Marcus Garvey Leadership Academy eventually paid it all back but at the time it didn’t have all $92,000 on hand.

In early 2013, Pascal Wayne Jones, a coach and teacher at the school was charged and arrested on twenty-five felony sex crime counts, including ten counts of forcible oral sodomy, ten counts of lewd acts with a minor, and five counts of rape by instrumentation. Jones, 42, allegedly, would lock the door to his classroom during elective hours, and then the sexual encounters would occur. The time frame of the incidents is said to have taken place from November 2011 until March 2012, occurring more than a hundred times. When Jones’s accusers’  mother found out about the alleged assaults, she transferred her daughter to Crooked Oak Public School. Jones was then caught stalking and attempting to contact the girl at Crooked Oak in an attempt to get her to recant her story. The mother then filed a Victim’s Protective Order (VPO) against Pascal Wayne Jones. In addition to investigating the alleged molestation by Pascal Jones, police are investigating whether or not the school district did enough to protect the girl. The accuser told police that she spoke to school staff about the molestation in 2011, but that nothing was done. A police report was filed in June 2012 based on DHS referral, but the case was determined to be unfounded because, at that time, the girl denied having sex with the teacher. Jones is also the former head football coach, girls’ track coach, and assistant boys’ basketball coach at Capitol Hill High School until his resignation in 2008, following his an arrest for marijuana possession.


“King Honored”, Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, January 16, 1986

Kaho, C. J. [Photograph 2012.201.B0249.0735]photographFebruary 28, 1936; (https://gateway.okhistory.org/ark:/67531/metadc360311/accessed August 4, 2020), The Gateway to Oklahoma History, https://gateway.okhistory.org; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society.

“15 Jan 1986, 69 – The Daily Oklahoman at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/451581553/?terms=martin%2Bluther%2Bking%2Belementary%2Bschool%2Boklahoma%2Bcity.

“18 Aug 1927, 1 – The Oklahoma News at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/594352821/?terms=harmony%2Bschool.

“18 Dec 2008, 18 – The Daily Oklahoman at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/451959770/?terms=marcus%2Bgarvey%2Bschool.

“2 Jan 1928, 2 – The Oklahoma News at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/594585595/?terms=harmony%2Bschool.

“23 Jul 2003, 61 – The Daily Oklahoman at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/454942542/?terms=marcus%2Bgarvey%2Bbuilt.

“5 Aug 2003, 4 – The Daily Oklahoman at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/454955697/?terms=marcus%2Bgarvey%2Bbuilt.

“5 Jan 1928, 8 – The Oklahoma News at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/594401890/?terms=harmony%2Bschool.

“6 Nov 1981, 49 – The Daily Oklahoman at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/454379437/?terms=martin%2Bluther%2Bking%2Belementary%2Bschool%2Boklahoma%2Bcity.

“[Photograph 2012.201.B0249.0735].” The Gateway to Oklahoma History, 28 Feb. 1936, gateway.okhistory.org/ark:/67531/metadc360311/?q=harmony%20school.

“[Photograph 2012.201.B0249.0736].” The Gateway to Oklahoma History, 24 Feb. 1943, gateway.okhistory.org/ark:/67531/metadc362588/?q=harmony%20school.

Griffin, David. “Marcus Garvey Learning Center To Close Amidst Controversy.” News 9, 30 May 2013, www.news9.com/story/5e34de6ce0c96e774b358f66/marcus-garvey-learning-center-to-close-amidst-controversy.

“Image 28 of Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma.” The Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/resource/g4024om.g4024om_g07202193203/?sp=28&st=single&r=0.355,0.061,0.505,0.25,0.

“A Look at Marcus Garvey Leadership Charter School in Oklahoma City.” Oklahoman.com, 16 Apr. 2013, oklahoman.com/article/3786469/a-look-at-marcus-garvey-leadership-charter-school-in-oklahoma-city.

“OKC Charter School Teacher Charged with Sex Crimes, Stalking.” 5-Star Criminal Defense Attorney Oklahoma City, OK | Phillips & Associates, 16 2020, www.oklahoma-criminal-defense.com/media/okc-charter-school-teacher-charged-with-sex-crimes-stalking.

“Oklahoma City School Board Votes to Close Charter School.” Oklahoman.com, 28 May 2013, oklahoman.com/article/3835681/oklahoma-city-school-board-votes-to-close-charter-school.

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Emily Cowan

Emily is a two-time published author of "Abandoned Oklahoma: Vanishing History of the Sooner State" and "Abandoned Topeka: Psychiatric Capital of the World". With over two hundred published articles on our websites. Exploring since 2018 every aspect of this has become a passion for her. From educating, fighting to preserve, writing, and learning about history there is nothing she would rather do.

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