Remembering Frederick Douglass Elementary
A roundtable and reflection day was held to honor the history and legacy of the school and those who became a part it
A Roundtable and Reflection Day was held at the Frederick Douglass Community Center, on Saturday, Oct. 22. Sponsored by the Black History Committee, Friends of the Thomas Balch Library and the Loudoun County Public Schools, the honored the building's history and legacy within the local community.
During the two hour event, guest speakers discussed the history of the building and what role it played in their life including Fred Drummond, principal of Frederick Douglass Elementary from 1958 to 1968.
His speech reflected back to the day he first began working at the school. Drummond explained that Superintendent C.M. Bussinger was the one who convinced him to take the job.
“I turned him down. I was fairly new and only had five years of experience," Drummond said. "Until Banneker and Carver schools were built, there had been several one-room school houses and I felt it might not be real pleasant since the principals of those schools probably thought they should be principal at Douglass."
But Bussinger went to bat for Drummond, and announced that if anyone had a problem with him being principal they could express their concerns. No one did and Drummond took the job.
“Mr. Bussinger told me that at the new school, I would be a full-time principal," Drummond said. "This gave me a chance to work with both parents and students. I took a chance and I loved it.”
Reverand Helen Green, who attended Frederick Douglass Elementary School in the 1960s, was also a guest speaker during Saturday's event.
“It was a school that I loved so very, very much. It gave us a platform, a voice of our own, and it prepared us for integration," Green said. "I felt we had the best teachers who really cared about us. We were very much an integral part of history all over the world."
Both parents and teachers did everything they could to fight for their rights, Green said. Everybody on the faculty was very involved, which made the elementary school a place that she could be proud of.
“It prepared me for the future," Green said. "When we were integrated I was ready. Through the moral code of our parents and our teachers, we were taught we are equal, to love one another.
"The only reason there was segregation was because of fear in the community. It was fear and ignorance and they wanted to ignore the change," Green added. "They didn’t realize we had already conquered that. Douglass was a place of pride."
Constructed in 1958, Frederick Douglass Elementary was a segregated school to serve African American children. The school remained segregated until 1968 when the U.S. ordered Loudoun County to integrate. Afterwards, the school continued to provide elementary education for the Leesburg area until 1982, when it was utilized for special education, preschool programs, and LCPS support services until 2010.
A new elementary school is being constructed on the property and will open in the Fall of 2012. The school will maintain the same name which honors Frederick Douglass, a preeminent African American leader of the nineteenth century.
"We have to keep the history, the legacy of the community alive. I think Loudoun is a very dynamic and changing county but as new people come in we want to make sure that they understand the rich history," said Dr. Wendy Manuel Scott. "Although the old Douglass is gone new students will walk into the new Douglass and we want them to know the committment to an education for all children and I think that's what today represents."
According to Sara Howard Obrien of the Loudoun County Public School System, it will be the first step in creating a permanent exhibit.
“We will be taking oral histories. We will have an internal time line in the building with local state and national events," O'Brien said. "This shows how people pull together to preserve a legacy and it will be a permanent part of that school."
The organizers, O’Brien said, are collecting memorabilia, including school picture books at the elementary school level.
“Just various things," O'Brien said. "Most importantly, their memories.”