New Elementary School is Set to Be Built on Historic Site
Frederick Douglass Elementary School was once segregated and is now to be rebuilt.
As if you didn’t think there were enough new schools popping up in and around Leesburg, there will be a new elementary school in September of next year. But this one will have a bit of history behind it. Frederick Douglass Elementary School was built in 1958 as a segregated school for the African-American community.
Although the Brown vs. Board of Education case ruled “separate but equal” unconstitutional in 1954, Frederick Douglass Elementary was built specifically as a segregated school.
The new school is a response to demand for a new school caused by a growing population; locating it on the grounds of the old school was a matter of convenience, according to Sara Howard-O’Brien, Land Management Supervisor for Loudoun County Public Schools.
“In terms of being at the location where the original Frederick Douglass Elementary School, it wasn’t chosen because of that, but because it was there, we want to make sure that the legacy of that school be documented and memorialized in the new elementary school,” Howard-O’Brien said. “The school board has determined it will maintain the same name and we have been working with the Black History Committee with incorporated various measures so the new student population will be made aware of the original school and its whole history.”
Loudoun County Schools and the Black History Committee of the Friends of the Thomas Balch Library are working together to preserve the history of the school. Herbert DuVall, Chairman for the Black History Committee, says they are collecting artifacts like photos, memorabilia, and any type of material from that time.
“What we are doing, with the cooperation with Loudoun County Public Schools, we have decided to put a memorial plaque somewhere in the school, have room set aside for alumni and what we’re going to do is some oral history and put them on tape so people can have it and get some idea of what happened to the people who went to this school prior to desegregation, that’s what we are trying to preserve,” DuVall said.
Loudoun County Schools are excited for the school to be built and have a dedication to the history behind it, according to Howard-O’Brien.
“By creating this exhibit in the school, and showing that it was built after Bown vs. Board of Education that it was a segregated school, and continued to be until 1968, I don’t know that a lot of people know that history,” she said. “There are a lot of good educational opportunities in creating this exhibit in the school. In the [long run] it will become more of the fabric of the history of the school than it might have otherwise.”
The main importance is keeping the history alive with the building of the new school and letting children know that they are a part of history.
“They need to know what happened with their ancestors, the struggle that took us to get there. It’s very important and something that shouldn’t be overlooked. They would never know that it happened; we’d rather have it factual for them,” DuVall said. “This was built by the community, laborers spent their time after work building it, and the land was donated. The hardships that took place in those days in segregated schools, that’s something that should not have been overlooked, it’s something we should capture.”
To share artifacts or any documents about the history of the school, contact the LCPS Planning Office at 571-252-1050 or email@example.com.