This is my final entry related to the 52 Weeks correspondence. I have voluntarily dedicated my time to sharing Shenandoah County, VA, history that was relevant to the lives of African American ancestors and educational experiences in our community, particularly as they impacted our minority neighbors. This was information I was not taught, nor I ever heard discussed, until I was in my thirties, largely thanks to my dear friend, Nancy Stewart, who passed away this past year. The only local history I learned growing up was related to Civil War battles, by visiting New Market Battlefield, or the Burning of the Valley, or through blind memorialization of Stonewall Jackson and Robert E Lee. When I was a child, I didn't know there were approximately 16 burial grounds for formerly enslaved African Americans in our county - one not even a 1/2 mile from the southern campus schools; nor that our Confederate ancestors were led in battle to attack Washington D.C. - the capital of our country - on July 5, 1864, which is why the Valley was burned. The only two Civil War generals I was taught to honor and revere were both from the Confederacy, whose leaders fought for states rights to choose slavery. I was taught that there were barely any slaves in Shenandoah County,VA, while in fact 12.5% of the population was once enslaved. That's hundreds of people, not a handful.
Ben Carson says it well: “There has been evidence of slavery since the beginning of recorded history, and again, it was horrible, but America is not unique in having utilized the labor of others for its own economic advantage. America was unique, however, in that it had so many people who were morally outraged that an institution like slavery could exist in our country... that they were willing to go to war and sacrifice a substantial portion of the population to end the practice. Some will say the war was not about ending slavery, but rather preserving the Union. A more in-depth analysis would quickly reveal that the reason for the secession of the South was so that it could maintain slavery” (Created Equal, 2022:88-89).
Jackson and Ashby are two of the "substantial portion of the population" that died for our country to abolish slavery. We should be celebrating the end of slavery and the beginning of more equal rights for all - not brandishing our schools with their names - especially when we know our school system did not provide equal educational opportunities for all students prior to the Civil Rights Act.
With all this, I choose to look forward with hope. I choose to recognize how we can truly honor the people in America's past that were willing to sacrifice their lives so that we can have more equality in our country today than we did then. What does this look like? How do we move forward? It begins by remembering all the reasons why the names were changed in the first place.
In 2020, watching the horrific murder of George Floyd, local, state, and national leaders - including our own Board of Supervisors and School Board leaders - signed resolutions condemning racism. The one signed by Shenandoah County school board leaders was "modeled after a measure distributed to school districts throughout the state by the Virginia School Board Association," according to a July 6, 2020 press release. It stated:
"WHEREAS, members of the Shenandoah County School Board, as well as the Shenandoah County Public Schools staff, are saddened and outraged by recent events that demonstrate the prejudice and injustice that persists in our country;
"WHEREAS, racism and hate have no place in our schools or our society, and we must protect the Constitutional rights of every person who lives, works and learns in our community;
"WHEREAS, we cannot be silent. We urgently must act to stop the racial injustice that harms and anguishes Black people, who are our family, friends, neighbors, students, staff members and fellow Americans;
"WHEREAS, we must listen. Those who have endured discrimination and intolerance deserve to be heard as they share the stories and truth about their experiences and feelings, and we must seek with great empathy to understand their challenges and their pain;
"WHEREAS, we must learn. It is time to engage our community in meaningful and honest conversation about racial inequality, to build alliances with those committed to justice for all, and to work together to support our shared conviction that racism must end;
"WHEREAS, we must lead. Each of us, individually and collectively, is responsible for creating and nurturing an anti-racist learning environment where every child is respected and valued for who they are, regardless of their skin color. We must actively acknowledge, address and present racial bias that occurs as a result of division policies, practices and actions; and
"WHEREAS, we must do better. Our school division can be and will be a sanctuary of safety in our community and a beacon of light for the world, as we build and strengthen trust with those we serve, and we model the acceptance of all people.
"THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that we, members of the Shenandoah County School Board stand steadfast in our commitment to foster an inclusive educational environment where every student, teacher, support professional, parent and community member is treated with dignity and respect, as well as our commitment to continue fighting for racial justice and human and civil rights for all" (Resolution condemning racism and affirming the division's commitment to an inclusive school environment for all, 25 June 2020).
School districts across the country signed similar resolutions and took action, prompted by state and national leaders. Then Secretary of State Qarni issued a statement encouraging community leaders to use their positions to address unjust laws and policy that harm African Americans, specifically, but minority groups, implicitly. The first consideration, according to a FaceBook post? “Change school names and mascots that are offensive or that memorialize confederate leaders or sympathizers.” Similarly, NPR revealed in July 2020, Governor Northam had written a letter to school boards across the state asking localities to change the names of schools and mascots that continued to honor the Confederacy, using the claim: “When our public schools are names after individuals who advanced slavery and systemic racism, and we allow those names to remain on school property, we tacitly endorse their values as our own.” In Shenandoah County, that included a difficult decision to remove the names of Confederate leaders - aiming to create public school identity that was based not on lost cause narrative nor on standards of massive resistance, but on celebrating diversity and creating public school areas that took offering dignity and respect to all community members seriously. Jackson and Lee did not respect half of their countrymen and did not respect African Americans - that's the bottom line. If they did, they would have chosen a different side to have fought on.
Retiring the school names of Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby-Lee Elementary School and choosing the more inclusive and less divisive names, Mountain View High School and Honey Run Elementary School, was like creating a ground zero. Ground zero is an epicenter, the central place where intense change occurs. This change caused intense ripples for our community: unsettling the status quo of privileging the narratives of only Confederate ancestors, redirecting familiar nomenclature for six decades of alumni et alumnae, and yet bringing justice to our county's cumulative acts of injustice (and these are just a few that stand out in regard to education):
- selling children in our county, prior to the American Civil War, rather than educating them (see Week 17: Sale of Children),
- diverting approximately $492,000 in school funds, which had been given in the early 20th century to make schools for the two races equal, to build three consolidated high schools that are noted in the school board minutes as serving only the white race, while African American high schoolers were deflected out of our county for education (see Week 49: S J H S),
- ignoring the voices of African Americans requesting access to better educational resources in the county and continuing to follow state standards of segregation until 1963-64 (see Week 48: Not One Positive Step).
The renaming of schools was a hard experience, especially socio-emotionally. But it offered an opportunity for peace, for unity, and for our community to flourish over time. This is what communities all across America and even around the world, have witnessed as people of diverse backgrounds come together to dialogue on past traumas and work to create a stronger community together. This final letter is a tribute to examples of positive solutions to challenges where racial injustice has occurred in a community, as well as an opportunity to pause and reflect on our county's cultivation of public spaces that allow for positive community identity.
What message does Shenandoah County Public Schools want to say about its history? We have to be honest. We cannot pick and choose what we are proud to know about who we have been. Shenandoah County has not always been a safe place for African Americans. Slavery and Jim Crow laws were realities here. Slavery impacted the lives of African Americans, who were at the whim of white owners that put their own personal needs above those they bought and sold like cattle. It's also important to point out that, worldwide, slavery is as pervasive as it ever has been, even though it's almost universally illegal. Several non-profits, globally and locally, proffer awareness of modern-day slavery, including: International Justice Mission, Anti-Slavery International, and New Creation. The heartbeat of the Confederacy was states rights to choose slavery. You cannot separate Confederate leaders from this message of injustice, no matter what their religious beliefs were. Reverting the names of our southern campus schools to those of Confederate leaders would be a step away from partnering with organizations such as IJM to combat slavery. Doing so would present an implied pro-slavery, pro-inequality message to the world, even if it was an unintentional butterfly effect. Keeping the school names as Mountain View and Honey Run are the primary way to promote peace and community.
It's important to be honest. How do we teach local history in school, honestly? Do we talk about the positive impact of African Americans? We wouldn't have Route 211 without the labor of enslaved and freed African Americans. We wouldn't have Route 11 without the Indigenous Peoples that hunted here and the settlers that drove their wagons into the Valley. Generations of contributions, and all we want to do is harken on the four years of the Civil War? We have a far richer history than focusing on warfare. It's important to celebrate the beautiful ways our community members contributed to making this place a home. What are the most tangible assets for our county? How do we encourage our children to recognize these assets and form healthy pride in being from Shenandoah County, VA?
My understanding is that our public school fifth-graders are required to visit New Market Battlefield, the site of a Confederate victory on May 15, 1864, but these children are not required to visit a slave cemetery. Why not? Is this a balanced representation of history? How can we present a more balanced narrative? Rockingham County Public Schools was working on a curriculum that shared local African American history for its students to learn. Their website proffers a way to share history (click on Local History) that includes Zenda (one of the African American communities formed following the American Civil War as African Americans sought protection in numbers) and Lucy Simms, an African American educator and namesake of the African American school in Rockingham County that educated even Shenandoah County high schoolers prior to integration. Shenandoah County should have a similar site that is honest about its local history. Who were the African American educators that taught our primary school students? How did African Americans contribute to the industry in our county? Did you know New Market had a really good African American potter? Did you know there was an Indigenous settlement in the Quicksburg area at one time? Why don't students learn about these aspects of our county's history, too? Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project is a local non-profit working to learn, share, and illuminate African American history all across the Shenandoah Valley, including in Shenandoah County, too. There are local archaeologists and historians working, legally, to uncover more than just Civil War history. Invite these groups and people to help with research, if you don't like what I have shared.
In addition to truth, we need to promote reconciliation, or "the restoring of friendly relations or the action of making one view or belief compatible with another." Our county has proffered a lopsided focus on Confederate history that is not healthy to continue. I'm not calling for the ancient Roman act of damnatio memoriae, which was a Senatorial vote that condemned a person to silence and removed them from historical memory. But, let this history stay on the battlefields, in the museums, and in history books. The Confederacy should not tarnish our community identity, because the people in our community - and especially the children - deserve to focus on what unifies us, not what divides us. Our community is filled with people whose ancestors were enslaved, denied basic rights, and sent out of county for a high school education. Some of our community members still remember being sent out of county for an education. How do we promote reconciliation today? Are we setting up contextual placquards at Civil War sites or UDC memorials that give a fair and balanced perspective? Do we share about how we treated African Americans from 1870-1963 in terms our educational injustice and celebrate that now we know better and do better - offering a more just educational system?
Locally, our county honored some of the African American students that attended Sunset school in Strasburg. There was a wonderful dedication of a highway sign in November of 2020. I homeschooled all three of my children at the time and they were some of the only white kids at that unveiling. How can such a momentous occasion only have had three homeschooled children in attendance? Why didn't more children come to this event? The quick answer is that their parents didn't take them and their community leaders, teachers, and coaches didn't promote the event enough. We have to encourage and support opportunities that allow for remembering the hard history so we make better decisions together in the future. I'm still impacted by the sight of African Americans - who weren't allowed as children to ride a public school bus in our county because of their skin color - sitting on a Shenandoah County Public School bus in 2020. And, more importantly, this has become part of my sons' memories as well. Why did that injustice have to wait over sixty years to be righted? And how many of our African American neighbors weren't able to experience this simple act of love, because they didn't live long enough for that to happen to them? Many have died before they knew someone in their county cared about what they went through and wanted to remind them they are an important part of who we are in Shenandoah County, too. That should mean something to us today - as much as, if not more than, how Jackson would feel about his legacy today.
How do we have these conversations and how do we honor who we are together? All across our country, groups of people from enslaving families and enslaved families are coming together to talk about difficult history. Coming to the Table has a Northern Shenandoah Valley chapter that meets monthly and includes people from our county. This non-profit organization focuses on "working together to create a just and truthful society that acknowledges and seeks to heal from the racial wounds of the past, from slavery and the many forms of racism it spawned." Another group, Family Circle, was formed specifically by members of the Lee family "to bring back the memories of our ancestors, as well as reconcile with the family that enslaved them." The group is pushing to change the official designation of Arlington House to drop Robert E. Lee's name as an effort of reconciliation. A member of Family Circle shares in an article by NPR: "I think this opportunity... allows our country to repair itself and to heal over some of the division that we've had for so long. So much of the time, we're talking past each other. We're not talking to each other."
Is Shenandoah County working to preserve this history and reconcile over what happened? To date only three of the burial grounds for formerly enslaved African Americans have been researched and preserved. Most are in a state of disrepair and overgrown. How can we bring awareness to such sacred spaces? It begins with recognition and honest dialogue surrounding uncomfortable history.
Regardless of how one feels about the process, the act of changing the names of southern campus schools was right. Undoing that just act would be a vengeful form of retaliation and unhelpful for our community in healing and moving forward together. Reverting to names of schools with Confederate leaders would once again privilege one side's perspective, celebrate a time known for its Massive Resistance to integration, and bolster a lack of empathy for the heritage of every person that does not have Confederate ancestors. The current names unify - the old names divide. Even today, 240 United States public schools still hold the names of Confederate leaders on their facades. Equal Justice Initiative is encouraging school districts to research the history of their schools to find out when they were named and to rename those chosen during times of Massive Resistance after Brown v. Board. These aren't private schools, these are public schools, funded by the United States of America. Attendance at public schools is compulsory under law. Not all students' families can afford a private school or have the ability to homeschool. This means our public schools must be compatible with the values USA communities hold true. EJI shares: "every day in the U.S., thousands of children across the country attend schools named in honor of Confederate leaders who fought to preserve slavery and racial hierarchy in America. Simply by going to school, young people are taught to embrace the names, likenesses, and symbols of men who fought a brutal war against the U.S. in order to preserve white supremacy" (The Truth About Confederate-Named Schools, 16 September 2020). How sad for Shenandoah County, Va, if we again add two more schools to EJI's count!
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY2021 NDAA) included similar measures for renaming United States bases named for people who voluntarily served in governments that fought against our country. The bi-partisan provision in the FY2021 NDAA created a National Commission on Modernizing Military Installation Designations to review current names of military installations and make recommendations for names that better align with the values of the United States of America and the mission of our military. Rep. Bacon shares, "Our military bases should bear the names of America's war heroes who went above and beyond to answer the call of duty, and who represent the best ideals of our Republic, such as Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipients, or other national heroes. Right now, many of our military bases are named after Confederate leaders who betrayed their Constitutional oath and caused the death of over 600,000 people because of slavery... This is the way we come together and move our country forward." House Armed Services Vice Chair Brown shares, "Who our military honors, reflects our values. We cannot ask young service members to live, train and raise their families on bases honoring men who betrayed their country to keep Black men, women and children in bondage. The United States does not lack for heroes we should honor and whose examples can serve as inspirations." Defense Secretary Austin stated in 2022, "The names of... installations and facilities should inspire all those who call them home, fully reflect the history and the values of the United States, and commemorate the best of the republic that we are all sworn to protect." Secretary of the Army Wormuth, addressing the decision to disassociate the U.S. Army from Confederate symbols and leaders after protests over George Floyd's unnecessary death, said, "It was a moment of unrest and significant division in our country, and both political parties overwhelmingly agreed that names on certain military installations, and the legacies of those names, were only deepening our social and political divides. Change is often necessary, but not often easy."
The truth is, all of us have different life experiences - but with common threads, the most common being that we are citizens of the United States of America. As each of us try to pursue our own lives, liberties, and pursuits of happiness, it's imperative to recognize when those pursuits cause even unintentional harm to others. This is how we form strong communities and a strong community identity: by including balanced narratives that invite every person within a specific community into the story of that place. When we view our public spaces as homes for each member of the community, how does this alter our perception of these places? How do visitors perceive our public schools? Are they inclusive? Are they welcoming? Do they hold subliminal messages that connote unintentional forms of hatred, fear, or lack of respect for any U.S. citizen?
Ultimately, it's up to each of us. We have to be willing to talk with people that have different ideas from our own. We cannot blindly follow tradition or status quo or bias. We have to have hard conversations, civilly, as if around a kitchen table. That is what 52 Weeks has aimed to do: to share hard stuff, civilly. How will you continue the conversation? Whose narratives will you seek to promote from among the people you choose to talk to? My hope is that such conversations will include the perspectives of people you usually do not invite for tea or coffee. My hope is that this will spark opportunities to seek out the lived experiences of people of color and minority groups, because real change only happens when we listen, not to respond, but to hear and to create a shared community identity that includes their narratives, too. Change is not always easy, but it is often necessary.
Thank you for walking with me on this journey - even if it was begrudgingly. I have great respect for anyone who wants to serve his or her community in a positive way. I believe in Jesus' example of unconditional love; and, I believe such love is a basic tenet to life. I pray all your decisions derive from such a source of love. Know that my offer for a cuppa tea or coffee and civil conversation is always open to you.
In conversations with neighbors over the years, there are two points from this entire 52 Weeks that were most influential in understanding the inappropriateness of Confederate leaders for school names in Shenandoah County, Va.
1. Thomas Jackson and Turner Ashby died during the American Civil War on May 10, 1863 and June 6, 1862, respectively. Their last breaths still held the oaths of allegiance they took for the Confederate States of America. Their death songs were acts of war against the United States of America - even leading others to acts of treason, as well. Robert Lee, while he did not die during the Civil War, was the paramount general in the Confederate States of America. He intentionally chose treason, rather than leading the USA's army. Are these men the best examples for youth in 21st century America? How can we expect our school children to recite an allegiance to the flag of the USA, if many of the generals we choose to honor didn't even do that at the end of their lives? How can we expect our school children to be, as our Shenandoah County Public Schools division advises, individuals "who have the skills, ability, and attitudes to succeed as productive citizens and develop a mindset of life-time learning" and our school environment to be one that encourages and supports "trust, mutual respect, open communications, and risk taking" with such men honored? Instead, their example encourages division and fighting against those you disagree with.
2. After the American Civil War, from 1870 until 1964, our state and our county codified segregated schools for our children. Shenandoah County, VA, led unequal white and Negro primary schools for almost an entire century! And, rather than welcoming African American and Hispanic high school youth into our county schools during that time, our county leaders forced them to find alternative means, such as a boarding school in Manassas or a black high School out of county to gain their diplomas, or to simply go without diplomas. Our leaders did not give children of color the same opportunities as white youth, but eventually pointed them toward the door, encouraging them to leave. Is this the same message we want to send to our African American, Hispanic, or other minority youth in the 21st century?
For the last year, I have offered research-based primary source data, verbatim from county, state, and national records, so that you could read this for yourself. I have tried to offer a perspective that has been missing from our county since its formation in 1772: that of African American ancestors. Our public library has a collection of photographs (the Morrison Studio collection) with their faces captured when their names are lost - I'm asking you to remember them in your decisions as much as you remember Confederate ancestors. These are just a small sampling of the people from that collection:
- Three unidentified children
- Unidentified woman standing
- Unidentified man with dog
- Unidentified woman seated
- The Timbers family
- Rev. Thomas & family
- Earl Dyer
- Unidentified Girl with Josephine Benchoff
We continue to ignore the meaningful contributions of African Americans to our county, whether that was during a time period many were intentionally enslaved for economic exploitation or during a time period they were belittled and their American rights were played with like kites held largely by unsympathetic white leaders. African Americans and individuals that do not match the mold of a majority of our community members continue to make positive and important contributions to our county. Shenandoah County, Va, is made up of more than just those we want to see. Our leaders must choose to make decisions for their community, not just for their constituents and not just along their party queues. Some decisions really are above politics, and this is one of them.
Most importantly, these 52 weeks are not about shame or blame (even though, when I was leading conversations at Sam Moore Slave Cemetery for seven years, shame was a consistent first expression many who did not know this history felt). This is about awareness. Without awareness, leaders have made decisions on behalf of others that have been detrimental to their livelihoods and to the success of America, itself. Without awareness, leaders today will make decisions on behalf of the entire community (not just their constituents) that make the wrong statements.
In personal conversations, and even firsthand, I have learned that there are real threads of meanness and racism in our county. But there are also threads of kindness and positive community. My posts have been a passion of respect and love - encouraging all of us to cling closely to the community we choose to be. To know the hard history so that we can make better choices together.
There is an extremely important aspect of this conversation that I have not covered yet. And that is one of faith. I will openly admit that I am a Christian in a nation that is losing confidence in Christianity offering anything but division and bigotry. I was taught to put God first and to treat others the way you would want to be treated. Bottom line: the names of Confederate leaders - Jackson, Ashby, and Lee included - have been raised to a position of idolatry in our communities. In many ways, they are wound up in a Confederate faith that is not only pervasive, but harmful for our youth and for our country. My personal example is Jesus. And when I look at Jesus, I don't see Jackson. I definitely don't see Ashby. And I don't see Lee. Jesus did not take up arms or harm anyone. He did not lead others down the wrong paths. And he offered unconditional love to everyone - not just those that looked like him or that had the right heritage. It is past time to let the Confederacy rest in museums and in history books.
The importance here is in establishing community identity through public spaces. Public spaces are those parts of our communities in which every person gathers to appreciate what we hold in common. When only perspectives from a majority group are established in these public spaces, there is no longer true peace or an understanding of inclusivity. It is vital to choose an identity that doesn't alienate and doesn't include unnecessary political innuendos. A name such as Stonewall Jackson (or even Mount Jackson, for that matter, which was politically named for Andrew Jackson) makes a political statement.
The term political means, according to Merriam-Webster, "involving or charged or concerned with acts against a government or a political system." Not only did Thomas Jackson fight against our country, the United States of America; but, his name was slapped on a public school amidst state policy of massive resistance, which our county's school board, at the time, embraced. The name Mountain View is not political. If the 2020 school board had wanted to make it political, they would have chosen the name of an African American teacher or leader in our county to replace Jackson's name. But they didn't. They chose peace. They chose to focus on what brings us together.
Our ancestors in the 1700s did not come to the colonial backcountry of Virginia, to the land that would become Shenandoah County, because of Confederate leaders - they came because of the beauty of the mountains, the abundance of resources, and the establishment of communities trying to live in peace with one another. It wasn't a perfect place and it wasn't a place without challenges - especially in terms of how many viewed African Americans and similar minority groups, as well as survived attacks by Indigenous groups that were not happy to see settlers in areas they saw as home; however, it was a place of community. A place of barn-raisings. A place of hayings and meals together under tall shade trees when the work was done. A place where neighbors offered helping hands whenever they could and paused along the road to chat. And these are the things that draw people to Shenandoah County today: the kindness and welcome of genuine people, the beauty of the mountains and rivers, the hiking trails that lead into mountain laurel lined forests with inspiring views, and a way of life that is less hurried and willing to savor what makes life worth living. What makes life worth living isn't war and it isn't politics. Both of which were embraced by the old southern campus school names. Instead, the names Honey Run and Mountain View promote a peaceful space that is worth celebrating and that can truly draw all people together (even those that don't have Confederate ancestors) without subliminal messages.
Ben Carson, in Created Equal: The Painful Past, Confusing Present, and Hopeful Future of Race in America, writes: “...is it possible for us to have a society that minimizes rather than maximizes the differences between people of different races? We all have the same kind of brain and similar needs and desires. We tend to act the same way in certain circumstances, and we laugh and cry for the same reasons. As we explore many deep issues surrounding race, let us remember that celebrating our diversity is a good thing as long as we don't permit that celebration to morph into a hierarchical system that values one group over another” (2022:33-34).
In Remember: The Journey to School Integration, Toni Morrison shares: "This... is about you. Even though the main event in the story took place many years ago, what happened before it and after it is now part of all our lives... remembering is the mind's first step toward understanding" (2004:3). She continues: "Remembering can be painful, even frightening. But it can also swell your heart and open your mind" (2004:5). Morrison dedicates her book to Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, and Cynthia Wesley, who died in the racist bombing of their Birmingham church on September 15, 1963. She concludes:
"Things are better now.
Much, much better.
But remember why and please
remember us" (2004:72).
Now, it's time for you to decide. Which side will you take? The side that resurrected pro-segregation, massive resistance or the side that recognized biased barriers such as Confederate names on public schools and intentionally chose to work toward peace-twined names that aimed to unite the community in positive ways? The national example of political leaders right now is atrocious. Let's show that Shenandoah County, Va, can be better, by striving to move forward as a diverse populace with different ideas about how to tackle the challenges we face today, but all aimed at creating a caring community, together.
By 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court, through Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, 391 U.S. 430 (1968), pushed localities for evidence of desegregation based on five aspects of a public education: faculty, staff, transportation, extracurricular activities, and facilities. By 1968, Shenandoah County Public School system appears to have integrated facilities, transportation, and extracurricular activities. The SCPS School Board minutes from 11 December 1972 have the following statement by the board following a discussion of the State Conference on Student Activities in Desegregated Schools: "Shenandoah County has a very good, healthy situation and... all students participate fully in all activities." Today, our focus is on faculty and staff.
Prior to the integration of Shenandoah County Public Schools in 1964, African American teachers taught African American students. School board minutes show that up to that time, African American drivers or even the teachers themselves drove African American students to school, except for those years the county utilized Greyhound's public bus services; in addition, personal conversations with community members and parent letters reveal that at different times this duty was performed by the student's parents and neighbors, or children walked to school. We've already seen the names of some of these drivers in school board minutes (Week 44: An Out-of-Area Education). These same records also list the names of African American educators, unless a position was indicated as vacant at the time of recordation. These teachers include:
- Alease Witherall (Woodstock 1938-1941)
- Violet Arter (Mt Jackson 1938-1940; Woodstock 1942-1945)
- Polly Mae Hall (Strasburg 1938)
- Frances Margaret Lyons (Strasburg 1940)
- Selma Nickens (Strasburg 1941-1943)
- John P Rier (Strasburg, 1945)
- G. R. McLain (Woodstock - Vann, 1993:4)
African American teachers taught multiple grades fashioned after the one-room school houses. Parents of an African American student reference this when requesting their child be moved to the corresponding primary school for white children in the community via a March 20, 1962 letter: "My main reason is that the teachers at the Sunset Hill Elementary School... each have several grades to teach. I do not think that a child under such circumstances can get as good an education as he could with a teacher who has only one grade to teach" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). The parents' request was denied and the student was required to attend the African American school in Strasburg.
An interview in 1993 with Gwen Tolliver, one of the first African Americans to enter Shenandoah County Public Schools, shares her experience: "I went to a little one room school right in my backyard... It had one classroom with a kitchen, a coatroom, and a male bathroom and a female bathroom. We had a wonderful teacher. She was wonderful! Her name was Mrs. G. R. McLain. She and her sister both taught school. Her sister taught in Strasburg. They were both from Martinsburg, West Virginia. She was there from Monday through Friday and on Fridays she would go back to West Virginia for the weekend. She lived there with her mother.
"Mrs. McLain taught all of us from grades kindergarten to grade seven in one room. The youngest sat in the front of the room. As we got older we moved farther back in the classroom. There were not enough desks, so the older students sat at tables in the back" (Vann, D. "Integration of Shenandoah County Schools, 1993:4-5). Tolliver references the teacher's organization in their success as students, as well as Creekside's parents, who helped with and attended fundraisers, parties, and picnics that supported the school's educational experiences.
Just as teachers for the other SCPS schools, the African American teachers worked hard to provide the best education they could for their students, promoting community and citizenship even during the difficult time of the Civil Rights era. But what happened to the African American educators when SCPS integrated their schools, closed the African American primary schools, and signed the Civil Rights pledge (as noted in School Board Minutes from January 11, 1964)? A newspaper article entitled, "Total Integration Seen For Shenandoah Schools," published by the Associated Press in July 1964 gives the answer:"Shenandoah County will become the second locality in Virginia to totally integrate its public schools. The Negro schools will be closed.
"The action is a result of the assignment of all 66 Negro students in segregated schools to predominantly white schools by the State Pupil Placement Board....
"Shenandoah School Supt. W.W. Robinson of Woodstock said today the integration of the schools will not mean the integration of the faculties. He said two of the county's three Negro teachers have returned to their original homes outside Virginia. The third has accepted employment elsewhere.
"Robinson said the assignments by the placement board were not made at the request of the county school board. He said the applications 'were merely forwarded to the (placement) board for action.'" (The Progress Index, Thursday, July 9, 1964, p. 17).
The African American educators in Shenandoah County primary schools lost their teaching positions. Shenandoah County Public Schools took the stance that integration of students did not apply to integration of faculty in 1964. At least in southern campus schools, where the focal point of our 52 weeks together has been positioned, an African American person was not appointed as staff for more than another decade.
But, our community did get another school named after Confederate generals. School Board minutes show the appointment of three persons (one of whom had previously made the motion to name SJHS) to find a suitable site for an elementary school at Mt Jackson (Shenandoah County School Board Minutes, 9 June 1969). Their work is noted in the following school board minutes: 14 July 1969, 13 October 1969, 16 October 1969, 8 January 1973, and 12 February 1973. Then, what had been referred to as the southern campus primary school was suddenly in board minutes as "Stonewall Jackson Primary School" (Shenandoah County School Board Minutes, 1 March 1973, 6 August 1973, 8 October 1973, 10 April 1974, 9 September 1974, and even 14 April 1975). The first mention of Ashby-Lee Elementary School came on December 9, 1974 when "Mr. D. reported that construction at the Ashby-Lee Elementary School is proceeding on schedule and that the roof is now on" (Shenandoah County School Board Minutes, 9 December 1974). Just as Stonewall Jackson High School had been named before African American students were allowed to attend; Ashby-Lee Elementary School was named before African American teachers were hired to work there.
Ashby-Lee opened in 1975, drawing students from New Market, Mt Jackson, and surrounding communities. The school name derived from the magisterial districts that represented those parts of the county. They had been named in 1870, when Virginia was fully admitted into the Union after its secession at the start of the American Civil War (see Week 39: The Mask of Defiance): Ashby and Lee. And as a side note: with an acronym completely inappropriate for elementary school children: ALES, which in my Merriam-Webster dictionary refers to quickly fermented beers.
Personal conversation reveals that the first African American staff person at Ashby-Lee was hired only after the possibility of a lawsuit during the first ten years of the school's operation.
I entered the public school system in 1985, a decade after the elementary school had opened. I still remember my teachers and the elementary school staff. Some were remarkable. I trusted them to make the best decisions possible for my education. I didn't have school choice, nor a say in what I was taught. I'm grateful that my educational background led me to meet the three African Americans that either were instructional aides or volunteered in the public school system when I attended southern campus schools. Their presence, particularly in elementary school and high school, were extremely important and gave me a glimpse of diversity I otherwise would not have known. I often marvel at their bravery for being a supportive and positive presence to all of us students. I think we would all do well to marvel over their bravery.
And it leads me to ask a few questions that I hope you'll want to consider too:
- According to the Census COVID-19 Impact Report for Shenandoah County, Virginia, 9.3% of the Shenandoah County population is not white. Is this diversity percentage represented among the SCPS staff through the hiring of African American, Latinx, or similar minority group teachers and other employees?
- According to U.S. News, which uses information they claim is from government sources, "the student body at the schools served by Shenandoah County Public Schools is 75.8% White, 3.2% Black, 0.6% Asian or Asian/Pacific Islander, 16.1% Hispanic/Latino, 0.1% American Indian or Alaska Native." This may not be completely accurate, especially since the site also includes outdated information on the correct school names, which I hope you will join me in advocating to be updated; however, it supposes that almost one quarter of the student body is racially or ethnically diverse. The School Board is in a better position to share the statistics, but if it is accurate, is this percentage represented in SCPS faculty and staff? Among our school board members and other leaders?
- Two southern campus school names were retired in 2020 and changed in 2021. We are entering our fourth year after that decision and still community leaders are sharing openly that the names will be changed back. How does this help our community to move forward in positive and peaceful ways? How does it help our students and our community members to overcome a traumatic name change by suggesting we have another traumatic name change?
As a child, I didn't know to challenge the names of Confederate leaders on public school buildings. No one talked about it. My parents were not obsessed with the Civil War, and I'm forever grateful to them for that. But, I was observant and I notice, now, the harm public school identities based on Confederate leaders does to a community. The names of Confederate leaders resonate with bitterness and unkindness. They issue a sense of entitlement and privilege a single narrative. By really embracing the names Mountain View High School and Honey Run Elementary School, we are celebrating what we hold in common. In a public school system with 1/4 of its students identifying as non-white, it is no longer responsible for our community leaders to hold onto or return to the old school names. In fact, it's irresponsible. Without clear explanations in both Mountain View and Honey Run school foyers, as well as on the SCPS website, relaying the positive intention of the name change for its diverse student population, SCPS leaders are causing confusion and keeping the community from experiencing much needed closure and healing.
In 2021, Thomas B. Fordham Institute published an article entitled, "Children learn best when they feel safe and valued," which provides five elements for a sound model that educators can use to create school climates that nurture learning: "express care, challenge growth, express support, share power, and expand possibilities. In this understanding of climate, teachers don't just express care for their students, they envision and communicate ambitious possibilities for their futures and provide the challenges and supports needed to realize that potential."
In 21st century America, what care and possibility do Confederate leaders promote especially for African American students or for any minority student?
Shenandoah County Public Schools holds the following as part of its vision: "Producing individuals who have the skills, ability, and attitudes to succeed as productive citizens and develop a mindset of life-time learning" and also, as part of its mission via the same link, believes that "all members of the learning community are valued and respected."
In 21st century America, how do Confederate leaders encourage citizenship in a country they seceded from and fought against? How do the names of Confederate leaders foment value and respect toward African American students or minority students, whom they fought to uphold in a status of inferiority?
It is time for our leaders to make the necessary fine-tuned changes within Honey Run Elementary School and Mountain View High School that demonstrate a community identity surrounding these positive, inspiring school names so that we can finally say, "Shenandoah County has a very good, healthy situation," and really mean it.
Student applications and correspondence are the largest sections of the Pupil Placement Board records. When Mountain View High School was first named as Stonewall Jackson High School in 1959, the established tradition for placement of students was that all African American students attended the county's African American primary schools or traveled outside of Shenandoah County for secondary school. Meanwhile, white students were unquestioningly placed into all other county schools, which served the white race (Shenandoah County School Board Minutes, 23 May 1958), based on the town where they lived and according to grade level.
In October 1962, S.W. Tucker and H.L. Marsh of Richmond, VA, and O.L. Tucker of Alexandria, VA, issued a lawsuit against Shenandoah County Public Schools. A letter dated October 11, 1962, from the representative for the Pupil Placement Board shares: "The suit, designed to integrate the public schools of Shenandoah County, is against the County School Board of that county, Mr. Robinson, Division Superintendent, and the Pupil Placement Board" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). More specifically the lawsuit was against the School Board and the Pupil Placement Board collectively as groups and individually against each member of both boards. Samuel Tucker was a lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, America's largest and oldest civil rights organization, which had formed in New York in 1909 by grassroots efforts to bring awareness to violence and fight discrimination against African Americans. NAACP lawyers filed hundreds of lawsuits over the 1950s and 1960s. One we've already noted was part of Brown v. Board (see Week 46: Brown v. Board); others, led to the integration of school districts across the country and across Virginia, starting with the first school districts to integrate: Arlington County and Norfolk on February 2, 1959. As a side note, one of the five students that integrated Arlington County Public Schools eventually moved to Shenandoah County. His children had no choice but to attend Stonewall Jackson High School. In a county like ours, unless you are willing to draw unnecessary attention to yourself, you follow the status quo and don't challenge decisions. This is why Stonewall Jackson's name wasn't challenged in 1959. Personal conversations with non school board leaders from that time period have resulted in statements such as "many of us felt uncomfortable with the name at the time, but we didn't feel we could do anything about it" (Personal conversation, former Triplett School principal, 2020).
The suit in Shenandoah County was jointly heard with a Frederick County case. "At 10:00 o'clock a.m. this coming Tuesday, October 2, 1962, at the United States District Courtroom in the Post Office Building at Charlottesville, Judge Michie will entertain and hear the motion by NAACP counsel for the immediate admission of one Negro pupil to a white school in Shenandoah County and six Negro pupils, all in the same family, to a white school in Frederick County" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.), states one letter in the Pupil Placement Board records dated September 27, 1962 and addressed to one of the board's members by legal counsel. The suit, Woodson vs. County School Board of Shenandoah et al, was brought "pursuant to Rule 23(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as a class action on behalf of all other Negro children attending public schools in said county and the parents and guardians of such children, similarly situated and affected with reference to the matters here involved" and describes obligations of the school system in section V:
"8. Notwithstanding the holding and admonitions in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, and 349 U.S. 294, the defendant school board maintains and operates a bi-racial school system in which certain schools (or a certain school) are designated for Negro students only and are staffed by Negro personnel and none other and certain schools (or a certain school) are designated for white students and are staffed by white personnel. This pattern continues unaffected except in the few instances, if any there are, in which individual Negroes have sought and obtained admission to one or more of the schools designated for white students. The defendants have not devoted efforts toward initiating nonsegregation in the public school system, neither have they made a reasonable start to effectuate a transition to a racially nondiscriminatory school system, as under paramount law it is their duty to do. Deliberately and purposefully, and solely because of race, the defendants continue to require all or virtually all Negro public school children to attend schools where none but Negroes are enrolled and none but Negroes are employed as principal or teacher or administrative assistant and to require all white public school children to attend school where no Negroes, or at best few Negroes, are enrolled and where no Negroes teach or serve as principal or administrative assistant.
"9. As matters of routine, every white child entering school for the first time is initially assigned to and placed in a school which is attended by white children; or if otherwise assigned, then, upon request of the parents or guardians, such child is transferred to a school which, being attended exclusively or predominantly by white children, is considered as a school for white children. Upon graduation from elementary school, every white child is routinely assigned to a high school or junior high school located in Shenandoah County and maintained and operated by the defendant school board for the education of white children. Negro children entering school for the first time are initially assigned to a school which none but Negroes attend and upon their graduation from elementary school they are routinely assigned to an all-Negro high school or junior high school which is not located in Shenandoah County and is not under the jurisdiction or control of the defendant school board...
"12. But for the deliberate purpose of the defendants to avoid performance of their duty as hereinabove mentioned in paragraph 8 hereof, plaintiff would have had no need to apply for attendance at Central High School. But for the fact that the defendants intend to maintain the racially segregated pattern of public schools through the routine practices described in paragraph 9 hereof and through the practice of refusing Negro high school students the right to attend schools operated by the defendant school board, the application made on behalf of the infant plaintiff would have been granted...
"VII. 14. The refusal of the defendants to grant the requested assignment, viewed in the light of the refusal of the defendants to bring about the elimination of racial discrimination in the public school system and to make a reasonable start to effectuate a transition to a racially non-discriminatory system, constitutes a deprivation of the liberty of the infant plaintiff as well as all other Negro public school children within said county and a denial of their right to the equal protection of the laws secured by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constituion of the United States, and a denial of rights secured by Title 42, United States Code, Section 1981.
"15. Plaintiffs and those similarly situated and affected are suffering irreparable injury and are threatened with irreparable injury in the future by reason of the policy, practice, custom and usage and the actions of the defendants herein complained of. They have no plain, adequate or complete remedy to redress the wrongs and illegal acts herein complained of other than this complaint for an injunction..." (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
The mother of the plaintiff, who didn't want the attention the case brought, requested for the case to be removed in Shenandoah County; however, it marked the last time an African American high school student would be denied from attending one of the three new all white high schools in Shenandoah County. And it emboldened African American parents to write to the superintendent requesting freedom of choice - which was Virginia General Assembly legislation that put the onus of integration on African American parents to request for their children to attend all-white schools, rather than automatically offering it. Freedom of choice was previously used by three other African American students, who attended Central High School and Strasburg High School during the 1962-63 school year - the year before total integration; and as is reflected in the August 13, 1962 School Board meeting minutes: "the Board discussed different problems that might arise regarding integration in Central and Strasburg High Schools."
In a History of American Education paper entitled, "Integration of Shenandoah County Schools: A Smooth Transition," author Diana Vann writes about the first African American that attended Central High School: "Gwen and I grew up and went to school in the same community during the same time period, but our rural, southern community still followed the 'separate but equal' doctrine. We went to separate elementary schools, even though she lived about two streets down from me. We both went to movies, but she had to sit in the colored section. I never saw her in the town's restaurants because blacks weren't welcome. I swam in the public pool in Woodstock, but I never saw her there. Blacks weren't allowed. I never knew Gwen existed until 1962 when she became the first black student to enter my high school" (1993:3).
Previous to 1963, the presence of an African American elementary school within Shenandoah County, Va, served as enough explanation for any denials of transfer requests for entrance to white elementary schools, even if the child lived closer to the white school - because of this same mentality of unwelcoming separation. Despite this, a March 22, 1962 letter to Hilton by Robinson shows the lack of equal educational facilities at the time: "The Strasburg Elementary School has twenty-three classrooms plus cafeteria, gymnasium, library and other auxiliary features. There are at least three teachers per grade. It is primarily an old building but comfortable and well maintained. The Sunset Hill School is a small frame and cinder block two room school, it is heated by oil stoves, has indoor toilet facilities, but has no facilities for cafeteria purposes. There is a special milk program at this school but no school lunch. The playground is small and the school is difficult to get to by car, however, it is comfortable, clean and well maintained" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). The primary African American schools had no cafeteria, no gymnasium, no library, and no auxiliary features.
Parents were tired of the status quo and ready to request change.
- On February 20, 1963, Mrs K. of Woodstock, Va, handwrote in cursive script the following letter to the Division Superintendent of Shenandoah County Public Schools: "Dear Sir, The reasons why I want my children... transferred from Creekside Elementary School to Woodstock Elementary School is first, the location of the school, for better education, no cafeteria and the distance they have to walk, crossing the track and the high way without protection in all kinds of bad weather. The teachers don't seem to explain the lessons to the children so they can get their home work, they leave the children to work out their own problems. These are my reasons for transfer for 1964 section" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). In communicating with Executive Secretary Hilton in the Pupil Placement Board office, Shenandoah County Public Schools Superintendent Robinson provided the following extra information regarding the Kaufmans - the letter is recorded here exactly as it is written, including parentheticals: "Enclosed are four applications from negro pupils, requesting transfer from the Creekside Elementary School (negro), Woodstock, Virginia, to the Woodstock Elementary School (white), also in Woodstock, Virginia.
"Mrs... K..., the mother of these children, is a native of Woodstock. Following her marriage, she has lived on occasion at least outside Virginia. One of the children, as you will note, was born in New Jersey. Two years ago, however, she returned, apparently to resume permanent residence in Woodstock, and for the past two years her children have attended the Creekside Elementary School. We are not certain as to the origin of her husband or as to her present marital status. Our information is only to the effect that he is employed elsewhere and appears in Woodstock only at rare intervals and then for visits only an hour or so in duration. In other words, the mother seems to be primarily and perhaps solely responsible for the rearing and the education of the children. A letter written by Mrs. K... giving her reasons for requesting these transfers accompanies the applications. If there is any additional data which you may wish concerning these pupils, we shall be glad to provide it.
"The School Board would like to have these applications processed as soon as it can conveniently be done in order that we may include the Placement Board's assignment in making plans for the 1963-64 school session. Naturally, if additional applications for the transfer of negro pupils to white schools are received, we shall forward them to you promptly" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). Also enclosed with this letter was a hand-drawn map showing the location of the family's home in relation to the two schools mentioned, along with the following written in the corner: "Home to Creekside #2 - .4 mile," "Home to Creekside #1 - .4 mile," and in red ink "Home to Woodstock Elem - .9 mile" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). A Bus stop is also marked in red directly across from the family's home on Commerce and Spring Streets. In the same corner of the map as the mileage between the home and the schools, the following is noted in relation to the bus stop: "Presumably these children, if assigned to the Woodstock Elem School, would be picked up at the bus stop indicated about 50 ft. from their door. No bus transportation is provided to the Creekside Schools" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). It's important to note that in the Pupil Placement Board folders not one white family's house was mapped and not one white family requested or was placed automatically in an African American school. Similarly, the level of covert surveillance against the African American family suggested in the superintendent's letter to Hilton appears to have never been applied toward a white family in our county.
This was the first of many transfer requests by African American families now eager to have equal access to educational facilities in Shenandoah County. A flurry of letters shares their reasons. In a June 4, 1963, letter to Hilton, Robinson shares: "Due to the pressure of time, these letters were prepared in this office on the basis of statements made by the parents as they presented themselves at this office to make application. They were typed immediately, read and approved by the parents, and then, of course, signed by them accordingly" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.), thus the following letters (unless noted otherwise) were typewriter-prepared in the SCPS office:
- May 27, 1963, Mr. B wrote: "My application is based on the fact that the nearest elementary school for negro children in Shenandoah County is at Woodstock, 14 miles away. The Triplett Elementary School, on the other hand, is less than a mile from my home. The Creekside Elementary School at Woodstock, which these children have been attending, is a two teacher school, without lunchroom facilities and operating in two buildings a half-mile apart. Permission for these three children to transfer to Triplett Elementary School will place them in a school in the same town in which I live and work, with lunchroom and modern in every way. I feel that the results will be a greater satisfaction to me as a parent and a much greater opportunity for my children as pupils" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). Robinson further shares with Hilton in an accompanying letter: "As indicated, the...children have been attending the Creekside Elementary School in Woodstock, a distance of approximately fourteen miles. [They] are one of only two negro families living in the town of Mt. Jackson. The second family living in Mt. Jackson is not now at home. About three weeks ago, however, this family indicated by telephone a desire to apply for the admission of a beginning child to the Triplett Elementary School this fall. We shall be glad to provide any data which you may desire with reference to these applications" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
- May 29, 1963, Mr. & Mrs. V wrote: "We are requesting this transfer, first, because the Creekside school is some 20 miles from New Market, making necessary a round-trip daily of a little more than 40 miles. The New Market School, on the other hand, is less than a mile from my home. In the second place, the Creekside School is a small, two-teacher school, operating in buildings perhaps a half-mile apart and having no lunchroom facilities. The New Market School, on the other hand, is a school of more than 400 students and is modern in every aspect. We feel that if this request for transfer is granted, it will mean a great deal in terms of educational advantages to our children. It will also mean a great deal to us as parents, deeply concerned to give their children every advantage possible" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
- May 30, 1963, Mr. T wrote: "I am also applying for the transfer of two younger children... from the Creekside Elementary School to the Woodstock Elementary School. My reason here is simply that I am convinced that their educational opportunities will be much greater at the Woodstock Elementary School than at Creekside. Creekside, at present, is a two-teacher school, operating in separate buildings approximately a half mile apart and having no lunchroom facilities at all. I understand, further, that next year Creekside may be reduced again to a one-room school, a necessity which must restrict their educational advantages still more. The Woodstock Elementary School, on the other hand, is a modern, well-equipped school, and insofar as I know it, fully equal to any elementary school in this county" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
- May 31, 1963, Mr. & Mrs. D wrote: "The New Market Elementary School is located in the community in which we live and make our home. Creekside, on the other hand, is located 20 miles away at Woodstock, Virginia. The Creekside Elementary School is a small, two-teacher school, operating in buildings a half-mile apart and without a lunchroom and other facilities, while New Market is a school which is modern in every respect. As parents, we shall be much better satisfied to see our children enrolled in a school in our own community. We shall also be gratified to feel that they are receiving the best educational opportunity which we can make available to them" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
- May 31, 1963, Mr. M wrote: "I am the guardian of these two children and have been so for the past eight years. Their parents are away in service. My reasons for this transfer are that I feel that their educational opportunity would be much greater at the Woodstock Elementary School. The Creekside Elementary School, at the present time, is a two-teacher school, operating in separate buildings approximately one-half mile apart and have no lunchroom facilities. The Woodstock Elementary School, on the other hand, is a modern, well equipped school and insofar as I know, fully equal to any elementary school in this county. I desire the best possible education for these children" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
- May 31, 1963, Mr. & Mrs. R wrote: "I make this application for a number of reasons. For one, the Creekside Elementary School is located in Woodstock, a distance of 20 miles from New Market. The New Market Elementary School, on the other hand, is located in the town in which I live and operate my business. It will, of course, be much more satisfactory for my children to attend a school in my own community. For another reason, the Creekside School is at present a two-teacher school, operating in two buildings a half-mile apart and with no lunchroom facilities. Also, I understand that Creekside will very probably be reduced next year to a one-teacher situation. The New Market School, on the other hand, is a school of more than 400 students and is modern in every way. I cannot but feel convinced that my children will enjoy a much greater educational opportunity by their attendance at the New Market School than they could possibly experience by continuing at Creekside. Naturally, as a parent, I am concerned to provide them with the best education available" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
- October 1, 1963, Mrs. C wrote: "The Creekside Elementary School is a small one-teacher school... They have no lunchroom facilities and the school is located as far from my home, if not slightly farther, than is the Woodstock Elementary School. Finally, no transportation is provided for children attending the Creekside School. The Woodstock Elementary School, on the other hand, is a large, modern school, with a lunchroom, and my children, if permitted to attend this school, would enjoy bus transportation" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
The same sort of sentiments are true about the high school transfer requests from 1963 that were made to the Division Superintendent of Shenandoah County Schools. The main difference is that parents were claiming their right to freedom of choice and highlighting that the county did not have a high school for African Americans within its jurisdiction - something mandated by law.
- April 16, 1963, Mr. B wrote: "My application is based on the fact that Shenandoah County provides no high school for negro students. My children are now attending the Lucy Simms High School in Harrisonburg, Virginia, a distance of approximately 26 miles. This arrangement involves a round trip daily of some 52 miles, and of course compels them to leave home early in the morning and to return late in the evening. Stonewall Jackson High School, on the other hand, is not more than 4 miles from my home. Permission to transfer will naturally make their education much more convenient and satisfactory. Also, without intending to criticize the Lucy Simms High School in any way, I feel that Stonewall Jackson High School will provide them with a greater opportunity in education. I have not applied for this transfer earlier because I have a daughter, a senior this year at Lucy Simms, who wanted to finish with her class and I thought it better for all three to attend the same high school until she graduated" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
- May 1, 1963, Mr. M wrote: "I am asking that he be transferred to the Strasburg High School because in Shenandoah County there is no negro high school. Negro students from Strasburg have been transported to Douglas High School in Winchester. This is a distance of about twenty miles. I prefer, of course, that the boy attend a school nearer home. Also, I have a daughter who was enrolled in the Strasburg High School last fall and I have been well pleased with her progress" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
- May 7, 1963, Mr. D. wrote: "My reason for requesting this transfer is, of course, based primarily on the fact that the Lucy Simms High School is located in another county at least eighteen miles from home. Stonewall Jackson High School, on the other hand, is located in the same county in which I live and is not more than four miles away. Shenandoah County, as we know, does not provide within the county a high school for negro pupils" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). Robinson shared in an accompanying letter to Hilton: "She resides with her parents in New Market, approximately four miles from the Stonewall Jackson High School. Shenandoah County, of course, does not provide a high school for Negro students" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
- May 28, 1963, Rev. W wrote: "I am requesting this transfer primarily because there is no negro high school in Shenandoah County. Students from Strasburg have been transported to Douglas High School in Winchester, a distance of about twenty miles. It will, of course, be much more satisfactory to me as a parent for Bernice to attend a school in the town in which I live. Also, while I make no criticism of the Douglas High School, I have been impressed with the reputation of the Strasburg High School and I feel that her attendance at that school through the remainder of her high school experience will offer her a better and more profitable educational opportunity" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
- May 28, 1963, Mrs. J. wrote: "I am requesting this transfer primarily because there is no negro high school in Shenandoah County. Students from Strasburg have been transported to Douglas High School in Winchester, a distance of about twenty miles. It will, of course, be much more satisfactory to... attend a school in the town in which I live. Also, while I make no criticism of the Douglas High School, I have been impressed with the reputation of the Strasburg High School and I feel that her attendance at that school through her junior and senior years will offer her a better and more profitable educational opportunity" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
- May 29, 1963, Mr. & Mrs. V wrote: "We make this request, of course, primarily because Shenandoah County, the county in which we have lived for many years, provides no high school facilities for negro children. The Lucy Simms High School is about 18 miles from our home. The Stonewall Jackson High School, on the other hand, is scarcely more than three miles away. Moreover, we feel that the Stonewall Jackson High School, which is the school normally attended by high school students from the New Market area, will provide them with an educational opportunity more profitable to them personally and more satisfactory to us as parents" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
- May 29, 1963, Mr. & Mrs. R wrote: "I have made my home and have operated my business in the town of New Market, Shenandoah County, since the close of World War II. Harrisonburg, in which the Lucy Simms School is located, is approximately 18 miles distant. Stonewall Jackson, on the other hand, is about three miles and is the high school which students from the New Market area normally attend. I feel that their enrollment in the Stonewall Jackson High School will afford them many advantages which the Lucy Simms High School cannot. Certainly, their attendance at the school in my own county and so much nearer my home, will constitute a much greater satisfaction to me as a parent" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
- May 29, 1963, Mrs. A. wrote: "I am requesting this transfer primarily because there is no negro high school in Shenandoah County. Students from Strasburg have been transported to Douglas High School in Winchester, a distance of about twenty miles. It will, of course, be much more satisfactory to me as a parent for them to attend a school in the town in which I live. Also, while I make no criticism of the Douglas High School, I have been impressed with the reputation of the Strasburg High School and I feel that their attendance at that school through the remainder of their high school experience will offer them a better and more profitable educational opportunity" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
- May 29, 1963, Mrs. E. C. writes: "I submit this application in view of the fact that my only alternative would be to send my son to the Douglas High School in Winchester, Virginia. This would involve a round trip daily of some 65 miles, and would, of course, take him into a county and a town other than the county and the town in which I live. It will, of course, be much more satisfactory to me for him to attend school in my own community. Also, I feel that the opportunity to get an education at Central High School is the fullest available to me, superior to that which he might have at Douglas High School. It is intended rather to express a sincere feeling that Central High School will in all respects offer him a greater advantage" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
- May 30, 1963, Mr. T (whose letter also included a paragraph shared above regarding two younger children) wrote: "My chief reason, of course, is that Shenandoah County does not provide high school facilities for negro children. Douglas High School is a little more than 30 miles from Woodstock, whereas, Central High School is located in Woodstock itself, the town in which I make my home. I feel too that the educational advantages at Central High School are superior to those offered at Douglas High School... I am, myself, a graduate of the University of Hawaii. I am, therefore, naturally concerned that my children enjoy an educational opportunity at least equal, if not superior, to that which I, myself, enjoyed" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
- May 30, 1963, Mrs. J wrote: "I make this application in view of the fact that Shenandoah County provides no high school for negro children. Students are transported to the Douglas High School at Winchester, a distance of a little more than 30 miles. Central High School, of course, is located here in Woodstock. I shall, of course, be more satisfied to have Richard enrolled in a school in the town and county in which I live. Also, I sincerely believe that he will enjoy greater educational opportunities at Central High School than the Douglas High School provides" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
- May 30, 1963, Mrs. S wrote: "I submit this application in view of the fact that my only alternative would be to send my daughter to the Douglas High School in Winchester, Virginia. This would involve a round trip daily of some 65 miles, and would, of course, take her into a county and a town other than the county and the town in which I live. It will, of course, be much more satisfactory to me for her to attend school in my own community. Also, I feel that the opportunity to get an education at Central High School is the fullest available to me, superior to that which she might have at Douglas High School. This last statement is not intended to be a criticism of Douglas High School. It is intended rather to express a sincere feeling that Central High School will in all respects offer her a greater advantage" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
- May 31, 1963, Mrs. S wrote: "I submit this application in view of the fact that my only alternative would be to send my daughter to the Douglas High School at Winchester, Virginia. This would involve a round trip daily of some 65 miles, and would, of course, take her into a county and a town other than the county and the town in which I live. It will, of course, be much more satisfactory to me for her to attend school in my own community. Also, I feel that the opportunity to get an education at Central High School is the fullest available to me, superior to that which she might have at Douglas High School. This last statement is not intended to be a criticism of Douglas High School. It is intended rather to express a sincere feeling that Central High School will in all respects offer her a greater advantage" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
The 1963-64 school year was one of full integration for Shenandoah County Public Schools and on January 11, 1964, the Board authorized the signing of "the Civil Rights pledge for Shenandoah County."
Woven into the timeline in which African Americans proffered these requests for admission to the county's all white schools are two School Board and school leader decisions that further highlight the subversive ways in which our leaders were promoting a pro-Confederate community identity. First is the fact that Stonewall Jackson High School included Sen. Harry Byrd, Jr - a key proponent in his father's massive resistance to integration in the state of Virginia - as a special guest speaker in the graduation exercises during the first year African Americans graduated from the southern-campus school in 1964 (Jacksonian Heritage 1964).
Second happened in an August 12, 1963 decision by the School Board. "A committee of five appeared before the Board to discuss tentative plans for commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of the battle of New Market on May 15, 1964. Upon recommendation by Mr. Robinson, ...a motion...was...passed by the Board that the bands of the three high schools participate in the commemoration program and that the New Market School auditorium be used for the Blue and Gray Ball. It was further recommended that schools in the county be closed on May 15th in order that all students may attend" (Shenandoah County School Board Minutes). So in the first year African Americans were allowed to attend Stonewall Jackson High School, they were required to reverently remember a Confederate victory that local historian John Wayland believed had been remembered in ceremony since 1866, except for "the years 1881 to 1896" (Strasburg News, Volume 44, Number 40, 20 May 1926, p1) and even continues to be remembered today.
This was under the encouragement of the Civil War Centennial Commission, which the Virginia General Assembly had initiated as a group of seventeen members appointed by the Legislature and Governor, and also an Advisory Council of twenty-one members, who had sent letters to local leaders encouraging festivities, observances, and commemorations to celebrate the American Civil War. The Centennial began with a National Day of Prayer on January 8, 1961 - before integration of Shenandoah County Public Schools. In addition to whatever occasions were initiated by localities (such as the decision to celebrate the May 15th event in our county), Virginia's General Assembly placed a focal point on the 1861 Peace Convention - a collaboration of representatives from 21 states, including Virginia, that had met on February 4, 1861 at Willards' Hotel in Washington, DC, in order to reach a compromise position that would restore the Union and prevent the Civil War. According to Excerpts from the Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia dated January 17, 1861, resolutions adopted by the General Assembly that included the establishment of the Peace Convention "Resolved, that on behalf of the commonwealth of Virginia, an invitation is hereby extended to all such states, whether slaveholding or non-slaveholding, as are willing to unite with Virginia in an earnest effort to adjust the present unhappy controversies, in the spirit in which the constitution was originally formed, and consistently with its principles, so as to afford to the people of the slaveholding states adequate guarantees for the security of their rights" and, as is more clearly explained by the Senate Joint Resolution No. 28, a plan that resembled the unsuccessful Crittenden compromise of 1860, expecting: "The Missouri line to be extended westward; slavery to be protected in territory south of that line; no further territory to be acquired without the consent of a majority of the senators from the slave states; Congress never to have power over slavery in the states, not even by a future constitutional amendment; slaveowners to be compensated when prevented by intimidation from recovering fugitives" (Records of the Virginia Civil War Commission, 1952-1966 (bulk 1958-1965), State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia). The convention failed to pull together divergent views, and as we learned previously, would have been a major alteration to the U.S. Constitution which up to that point did not include the term "slavery" in its language (see Week 45: Rebuilding a Pro-Confederacy South).
A document circulating the highlighted historical background of the Peace Convention also included a section headlined "Why commemorate the Convention?" with the response:
"1. We can learn from this event the importance of humility, for the entire nation shares the blame for the Civil War. We are made aware of the necessity of putting the national interest ahead of party or special interest... We can see how essential in this crisis was the vision, the clarity and the courage which can only come from following rules of right conduct and subordinating the interests of self to larger goals. The tragedies of history are as important as the triumphs in their lessons to future generations.
"2. We have an opportunity to pay tribute to the memory of those men who tried to save the country from disaster and to rededicate ourselves to the continuing fight for unity, high purpose and integrity across the nation.
"3. This is a chance to launch the 1961-1965 Centennial of the American Civil War on a high plane, to set the tone for a four year observance which will have meaning to all our people...."
The National Day of Prayer, mentioned above, held a theme centralized on the idea that "the only answer to the problems of war, hate, greed and division is to put the purpose of God first - ahead of the conflicting wills of men, their parties, special interests and materialistic ends" (Records of the Virginia Civil War Commission, 1952-1966 (bulk 1958-1965), State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia).
On May 20, 1960, Gov. Almond shared the following statement in regard to the Virginia Civil War Commission's plans to local papers: "There were men in every section of the country who believed that war was not the way to settle disagreements and who earnestly sought to find a basis for unity and peace. Unfortunately, much of our history has been written to justify the rightness of one side or the other and the moderates who stood between those who were spoiling for a fight have largely been forgotten" (Records of the Virginia Civil War Commission, 1952-1966 (bulk 1958-1965), State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia). And yet, instead of focusing on the peace and unity, in an address at ceremonies in the State Capitol at Richmond on February 4, 1961, to commemorate the Peace Convention, Gov. Almond concluded with the bombastic, Lost Cause infused statement: "Virginia drew her sword and, under the leadership of the knightliness knight whoever wore the gray; under the military command of the greatest soldier in American history; under the spiritual and moral persuasion of an immaculate Christian gentleman, whose figure we look upon with reverence today in this room, Virginia fought all the way to the bitter end.
"Out of that suffering and out of that sorrow and that loss; out of the bereavement in almost every home on her soil, and under the moral leadership of Robert E. Lee, she sought to bind up the wounds and heal the strictures and the ruptures of this great nation; and since and today has been making her contribution for the strength of the nation, for the preservation of the rights of the states, under and through the Constitution of the United States" (Records of the Virginia Civil War Commission, 1952-1966 (bulk 1958-1965), State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia).
This said in 1960 while African Americans were being denied their full constitutional rights in the United States, in Virginia, and in Shenandoah County. This said a year after our School Board named an all-white school after a Confederate general that fought on behalf of states' rights to enslave African Americans and against his own native country, the United States of America. This said while permeating four years of community celebrations not solely in reference to peacemakers, but to generals and battles that prolonged a road toward true equality and peace in our country.
Toni Morrison, in Remember: The Journey to School Integration, wrote: "This... is about you. Even though the main event in the story took place many years ago, what happened before it and after it is now part of all our lives. Because remembering is the mind's first step toward understanding." Her book walks us along the bittersweet road of America, which she experienced firsthand, "when there was as much hate as there was love; as much anger as there was hope; as many heroes as cowards...." And she reminds us that "the first people to step onto the long path were children and their parents" due to the segregation that separated people by race in all public areas: at drinking fountains, in train stations, on public transportation such as buses, in movie theaters and churches, even the time of day for vaccinations and swimming in public pools, and most definitely in our public school system.
Ultimately, I think we have to ask ourselves, what would the African American parents, advocating for their children to attend these public spaces, say about why they lived in Shenandoah County? What made this their community, too? I am certain such responses would have nothing to do with the Confederacy or with its leaders, who ill-used our ancestors because such leaders were not willing to adapt to lifestyles devoid of states rights to enslave others or states rights to segregate. In a country that does not require passports to enter different states, why in the world do we need different rights for our American citizens in Florida or in Oregon, in Maine or in Virginia? Do we see so many differences among American citizens, do we distrust one another so much, that we cannot all have the same rights? Our Constitution and its amendments are designed to protect our citizens and to enable all our citizens to have the same rights. These are not rights to hate, divide, or control; they are to enable "a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity" (Constitution of the United States, 1787). Union. Justice. Tranquility. Common Defence. Welfare. Blessings of Liberty. Posterity. These are words soaked with stains for the Shenandoah County parents, who wrote the above letters; because they (and their ancestors) knew times when such words did not apply to them or to their children. These were our neighbors in Shenandoah County, Virginia. These are our neighbors today. What message do you want to send to them?
Consolidation of schools reached its peak in Shenandoah County, Virginia, in 1958. The School Board had spent years planning and engaging in heated debate with the Board of Supervisors over their consolidation efforts, especially in regards to the six high schools that served the county at that time. In the end, the School Board decided to build three new high schools to serve its white students: one in the northern part of the county, another centrally-located, and a third in the southern part. School board minutes clearly show these three high schools were meant to serve only the white race (Shenandoah County School Board minutes, 23 May 1958). Meanwhile, African American students continued to be rerouted out of county for an education, with their school consolidation efforts continuously tabled or prolonged (see Week 44: An Out-of-Area Education).
To recognize the impact of integration and consolidation on our school system, we have to turn to the local papers. Following the Brown vs. Board decision, at a School Board meeting, these leaders "declined to take any action on the matter of school segregation. They took the position that the State Board of Education should indicate its position in the matter first... Delegate from Shenandoah County, who is a member of Governor Thomas B. Stanley's segregation study commission, had asked for some expression from the School Board" (Northern Virginia Daily, Volume 72, Number 235, 5 October 1954 p.2).
At a 1955 school board meeting, "a letter was read from Governor Stanley to the effect that public schools in the State would continue on the segregated basis during the coming school year. In this connection, Mr. Hilton informed the Board that Shenandoah County has about 100 colored school children. The largest number are in Strasburg; Woodstock, next; and then New Market and Mt. Jackson. There are none in Edinburg or Toms Brook. There would be not over two to three Negro school children in any one grade, were they to be assimilated into the white class rooms of the county, he added" (Northern Virginia Daily, Volume 73, Number 155, 2 July 1955, p. 5).
Hilton was the then SCPS superintendent of schools and would become the Pupil Placement Board's executive secretary. He addressed the Board of Supervisors a year later, during a peak conversation in financing the three high schools by noting: "we are spending $9,000 in tuition and $2,000 in bus expense to send 32 Negro students to school in Winchester and Harrisonburg. Should that expense be eliminated? And what would be recommended by the Board of Supervisors as to where they should be sent to school? Most of them live in Strasburg, a few in Woodstock, New Market and Mt. Jackson. That is a policy matter, especially in view of the position taken by the State on integration..." (Northern Virginia Daily, Volume 74, Number 101, 28 April 1956, p.7).
In February 1957, the Shenandoah County Education Association filed a petition with the SCPS school board for a pay increase and confirmation "that this salary would be paid 'whether the schools be in session or closed for any reason.' This latter phase was thought to be a request for a guarantee that the teachers would be paid even if the county should resort to the extreme steps possible under the state's anti-integration program and close the public schools" (Northern Virginia Daily, Volume 75, Number 30, 5 February 1957, p.7), which was certainly the case in Warren County Public Schools the following year (see Week 45: Rebuilding a Pro-Confederate South). As reported in a local newspaper, Governor "Almond asked for legislative help... by proposing... A new law empowering the governor to close any school patrolled by federal troops, as an added measure of protection against any possible 'Little Rock' incident in Virginia" (Northern Virginia Daily, Volume 76, Number 10, 13 January 1958, p.1). More specifically, this is in reference to the nine African American students that enrolled in Central High School of Little Rock, Arkansas in September 1957 as a test of Brown v. Board. The Arkansas governor had attempted to block the students' entrance to the all-white high school. Weeks later, then US president Eisenhower sent federal troops to escort the students into CHS. It's important to note that their testimonies of harassment were similarly experienced by African Americans across the country - those that were the first to integrate the all-white schools in their communities. And instead of recognizing the challenges, even in the 1950s, of this moment in history, and trying to promote peaceful community spaces, our 1958 School Board decided, as we are about to see, to make a political statement aligning with the Virginia state position of continuing segregation at that time and privileging the Confederate narrative, which had a lifeline rooted in proclaiming the inferiority of the African American race.
The estimated cost for the three new high schools was $2,300,000 (Shenandoah County School Board minutes, 12 March 1956). To meet some of this expenditure outside of increased taxation, the School Board allocated $491,878.75 from the Battle Fund and $39,000 from a County Capital Outlay Fund. John Battle had been the 56th governor of Virginia from 1950-54. During his administration, Virginia's General Assembly had given funds to Virginia school boards to "eliminate inequalities between the races" (Dorothy E. Davis, Bertha M. Davis and Inez D. Davis, etc., et al., Appellants v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Va, et al. US 191 (1952), p. 20). The Battle Fund was intended to help fund schools for African American and White students in each school district - making sure facilities were equal and Virginia schools were safe from potential lawsuits; however, the Shenandoah County School Board used all of the funds solely to benefit what their minutes show as the White race (Shenandoah County School Board minutes, 10 May 1954, 7 January 1955, 9 April 1956, 23 May 1958). One local paper shares the School Board's resolution for use of the funds: "Authorize an application for 'The Battle Fund' grant of $492,000.00 to be applied in financing the school construction plan to provide essentially equal curriculum in the schools of Shenandoah County" (Northern Virginia Daily, Volume 74, Number 138, 12 June 1956, p.7). The problem here is that "equal curriculum" did not mean equal among the races. SCPS had no intention in 1956 of including African Americans in the three new high schools they were building; therefore, these funds were misused not to equalize curriculum among the races, but among the white students allowed to attend these schools in 1959.
Another part of the funding came from taxation. The night before a county-wide vote on a 1956 bond referendum, which would support local education, then School Board chair wrote to the citizens of the county, encouraging support of the bond because "doing so will make possible much better educational opportunities for your children, and for those to come," with focus on providing "adequate and equal curricula, space, facilities and instruction for every child in this County" (Northern Virginia Daily, Volume 74, Number 214, 11 September 1956, p.5). The problem with this letter is the fact that the three high school plan did not provide equal anything for African American and Hispanic children, who were still being diverted out of county as late as 1963 - and those high schools were what the taxed funds were for. The chair's letter does make an important point, though: "What chance has any child in our modern complex society without at least a good fundamental high school education? What chance for survival has a Democracy which does not offer the opportunity for achievement and leadership only an education can make possible? Who, among us adults... wants it placed upon his conscience that he has undertaken to deny any child the chance to take its rightful place in society because of his personal dislike for or bickering with a fellow adult or area of our county? Let's think of our children and forget ourselves insofar at least as opportunity for them is the important - and the only real consideration" (Northern Virginia Daily, Volume 74, Number 214, 11 September 1956, p.5).
After a two-month delay in naming these new schools (Shenandoah County School Board minutes, 10 November 1958), Strasburg and Central High Schools were named after the town and the region in which the schools were built. Strasburg High School and its mascot, Rams, were already being used by one of the six high schools in Shenandoah County at the time; therefore, it was a continuation of an established name and mascot. Central High School had been referred to as centrally-located throughout School Board minutes. While the mascot was not mentioned in school minutes, use of Falcons (as noted in newspapers in 1959) followed the tradition set in place by SHS in selecting an innocuous animal to represent the school. These school choices were a-political and can bring together communities of diverse backgrounds. However, the southern campus school, which pulled together Mt Jackson and New Market students, was treated differently. It was named Stonewall Jackson High School (Shenandoah County School Board minutes, 12 January 1959), by the very chairman that highlighted the importance of providing an equal education for all the county's students. And the mascot chosen was Generals, but not just any general: a Confederate general, who rode a horse and carried a Confederate flag - an emblem that remained on the high school for decades: openly, promoting Lost Cause narrative, visually, and confusing generations of students by not addressing the incongruence to promoting patriotism toward the United States of America.
This original school name decision occurred in the turmoil of national and state-wide news that highlighted the need by many civic groups and governments for taking a stand and supporting segregation, particularly in education and in light of the controversially-received Brown v. Board decision that was paving the way for integration of schools. It occurred in the emotional rigor of Virginia legislature starting the process of plans for a Civil War Centennial celebration across the state. And it occurred only one week before the national holiday, Lee-Jackson Day - something celebrated in Virginia until 2020.
To highlight the prevailing ideals at the time: one week following the 1958 school name decision, the local newspaper reported an address given by Maj. Bushong Jr. at a Front Royal celebration of Lee-Jackson-Maury birthdays: "The attributes that carried them through the turmoils of their day, if applied by the leaders of today, should bring triumph also, the speaker claimed... attribut(ing) the success and greatness of Gen. Robert E. Lee, 'Stonewall' Jackson, and Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury, all Virginians, to two noble characteristics that marked their lives. 'Their abiding faith in the Supreme Being and an unswerving devotion and loyalty to duty,' if applied by the leaders of today, Maj. Bushong asserted, 'is the answer to our problems - whether integration or sputniks.' The speaker also lamented the fact that radio and television stations are bowing to the orders of the 'National Association for the Agitation of Colored People' and are changing the folk songs of the nation in removing all references to the word Negro... because of a 'loud mouthed minority trying to override the majority'" (Northern Virginia Daily, Volume 76, Number 17, 21 January 1958, p.3).
In the fall of 1958, before the high school was named and as earthmovers were beginning work on preparing the foundation of the southern campus high school, members of the community were celebrating the occasion by holding a Confederate war flag over the construction site (see Week 15: The First Annual); an act that seemed to mimic the pride of the Ku Klux Klan that had met in 1925 in the caverns under the field that would one day house Stonewall Jackson High School (see Week 41: Self-Preservation). Instead of creating a public school that promoted a respectful environment that embraced the diversity of those who attended, it privileged and celebrated pro-Confederacy heritage.
Stonewall Jackson High School was dedicated on April 24, 1960 (Shenandoah County School Board minutes, 9 November 1959), with Virgil Carrington Jones, a member of the Civil War Centennial Commission, chosen as the guest speaker (Shenandoah County School Board minutes, 14 March 1960). Jones was also a speaker at Massanutten Military Academy's 61st commencement. During that ceremony, "Mr. Jones reminded his listeners that he too had gone to school in the Shenandoah Valley. He indicated that he had always been attracted to Civil War lore, and therefore wanted to pay tribute to the soldiers of the 'Lost Cause.' He mentioned the great field commander, General Thomas Jonathan ('Stonewall') Jackson, and indicated that this famous Confederate leader had put iron in the hearts of his men and was able to drive them almost beyond human endurance... He told them to look to stars like the heroes of the South who passed through this very area, and to contribute their part to the building of our country by fidelity to those principles which they thought right" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 75, No. 129, 1 June 1960, p.6). The newspaper doesn't mention whether or not Jones reminded students that Confederate generals were ultimately traitors to their country, the United States of America, nor that generals in the United States army also passed through this very area and also fought bravely and with the fortitude of restoring our fractured country and promoting true equality for all people, including the enslaved African Americans that the Confederacy fought to keep enslaved.
It's important to recognize that Stonewall Jackson High School was named in the whirlwind of promoting Confederate ideals in Virginia and in Shenandoah County. Not only was this part of Virginia's General Assembly, particularly due to the Brown vs. Board decision, but it was also part of the Pupil Placement Board, whose very purpose was to continue separation of the races in our school systems as dictated by the state constitution (see Week 46: Brown v. Board, Week 47: Maintaining Public Peace, and Week 48: Not One Positive Step). We will look again to those minutes next week; however, there is one more aspect that really needs to be spotlighted again. And that is the mascot.
Shenandoah County, Virginia, has a history inflamed by pro-Confederacy propaganda that was blatantly pushed upon our youth, rather than the integration of true peace that our country so desperately needed then and needs now. In the 21st century, it is intolerable for a public school to choose to only honor Generals that were part of the Confederacy - namely Jackson, Ashby, and Lee - over Grant, Meade, and even Sheridan, whose burning of the Valley happened because some of our county's ancestors attacked the very heart of our country today - our capital, Washington D.C, on July 5, 1864 - or even generals that came after this time period. Generals that served the United States of America deserve more honor from our citizens than generals that took up arms against our country and even attacked our country's capital in 1864! Every Veteran should feel affronted by such a slight. Ignoring these truths and our county's history of oppression, indifference, and hatred toward African Americans and minority groups by choosing to honor only Confederate Generals is not a claim of heritage, it is an indoctrination of hatred, white supremacy, and injustice against our children and against a peaceful future together. We have a moral obligation to claim positive community identities in our public spaces, especially for our public schools and especially for our precious, innocent children. When we know better, we do better.
The previous board did not join the school board with a political agenda - they rose to a challenge in our country and in our community, choosing compassion and inclusion over popularity and majority. The previous board made a decision to compromise by keeping the Generals mascot so well-loved by many in the community. This was a respectful act of peace.
I'm going to be candid, because that is all I know to be - although I recognize the wisdom behind this vote, I didn't agree with the decision to keep the Generals mascot. As a female alumna that graduated from Stonewall Jackson, I was never comfortable with the pro-Confederacy, pro-masculinity, and pro-war message that I was representing with that school name and with that mascot. But I didn't know better - everyone, even my Sunday School teacher, was promoting the War of Northern Aggression or telling about the burning of the Valley or the heroic, faith-infused efforts of Confederate Generals. Lost cause narrative was thick in our community and has been since the start of the Civil War. It is time to move on from the Civil War - to act like a community that solves problems together rather than argues over whether or not a white man that died 150 years ago is affronted by no longer having his name on a school building, jersey, or helmet - especially when there are living people with tangible heartbeats in Shenandoah County right now whose own ancestors our Confederate ancestors enslaved or fought to keep enslaved. When we know better, we do better.
But even more than this, I don't like the name Generals because I want our students to aim for exceptional, not just standard. Among the definitions that Merriam-Webster gives the term general are "common to many, not special, not specific or in detail." Our community deserves to be more than just standard - let's set our minds and hearts on what's exceptional. And, let's truly be "involving, applying to, or affecting the whole, not partial" when it comes to our public school. The core of that is cultivating community. It takes intention and commitment to do this. Choosing to return the school names to the oppression of Confederate Generals, yet again, doesn't foment peace. It plays the same message that the KKK did meeting in caverns below the southern campus schools; the UDC did in erecting a monument they claimed promoted peace but only honors Confederate soldiers, while a slave cemetery on the other side of the tracks from that monument was neglected; and the school board in 1958 did when they chose a Confederate general for a school name while forcing African American high school students, who were as native to our county as their White counterparts then, to go elsewhere for an education. When we know better, we do better.
Virginia used legislature drawn from states such as Louisiana, Tennessee, and South Carolina, which were created for public welfare in continuing segregation of the two races. For example, one of the Pupil Placement Board files shares a bill established by Tennessee: "Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, That boards of education of counties, cities and special school districts in this state are authorized to provide separate schools for white and Negro children whose parents, legal custodians or guardians voluntarily elect that such children attend school with members of their own race" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). Other filed documents point to protocols the Pupil Placement Board created as a result of consultation to the guidelines incorporated by other states seeking to keep the status quo of segregation in school systems.
The creation of a state-wide Pupil Placement Board resulted in a flurry of memos to local school boards around Virginia, including clarifications as the educational system processed this new way of placing students into schools. Memo #5, dated March 11, 1957 clarified "the situation where an irresponsible parent or other custodian might fail or refuse to execute application forms required by the Pupil Placement Act" by stating: "'No child, whose parent, guardian, or other custodian refuses to complete and file the required Application for Placement of Pupil, shall be permitted to attend or to continue to attend school until such application shall have been completed and filed.'
'No child, whose parent, guardian, or other custodian fails to complete and file the required Application for Placement of Pupil within fifteen (15) days, shall be permitted to attend or to continue to attend school until such application shall have been completed and filed.' " (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.)
Another clarification on May 21, 1957 begins, "in order to avoid any injustice to innocent children due to the failure of a parent to complete and file the required Application for Placement" and concludes allowing the local school authorities "to determine the causes or reasons for the parent's failure or neglect," with "continued failure... deemed a wilful refusal and be treated accordingly" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). Such failures to comply through conscientious objection in protest to the board were deemed legal; however, the law also gave the board "subpoena powers to obtain such information as may be necessary to assign the child to a proper school" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). The Pupil Placement Board had no way of enforcing its positions; instead, legal enforcement was enacted by local authorities on a case by case basis. The act authorized local school districts to find other ways of providing necessary information, regardless of parental authorization, so that children could be placed by the board.
Continued fine tuning in 1960, included the board's pronouncement that it would "not consider applications for original placement or transfer filed with it or with the local division superintendent of schools after July 1st for the ensuring school session unless a change of the applicant's residence subsequent to July 1st necessitates a new placement" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
The details of these guidelines were often used by lawyers to target school districts for purposes of forcing integration. The Pupil Placement Board noted three specific cases in Grayson, Pulaski, and Norfolk, where students sought entry into all-white schools. A document in the PPB files noted 34 such cases around the state by 1964. Grayson County's case led to Virginia's first fully integrated county in 1960 with the result that the division was "restrained from refusing to admit for reason of race and color any high school student" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). As with Shenandoah County Public Schools (see Week 44: An Out-of-area Education), Grayson County did not have a high school for African Americans at that time.
Records sent to Shenandoah County Schools by the Pupil Placement Board show 42 pupil placement applications in the county approved on January 12, 1960, and 631 applications approved as of December 22, 1960. Of these transfers, enough details are given to determine that at least two are for African American children placed in Sunset Hill Elementary School, which was the African American elementary school in Strasburg, and four are African Americans placed at Creekside Elementary School, which was the African American elementary school in Woodstock (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). Elementary-school-aged African American students were placed in African American elementary schools. If they requested transfer to the white elementary schools, prior to 1963 they were denied on the grounds of inadequate qualifications, distance between their place of residence and the school requested, or similar accommodations. For example, on June 14, 1962, "motion was made, seconded, and passed that" two African American students "be denied placement in Strasburg Elementary School because of inadequate qualifications (academic) and distance from their residence to the school requested and placed in Sunset Hill Elementary School" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). But, it shows the establishment of the local tradition: keep the races separate.
A report to Governor Almond from 1960 in the Pupil Placement Board minutes shares a clear overview of the board's actions and intentions: "In various editorials and press reports, as well as in certain arguments made in various courts, emphasis has been placed on the fact that the members of this Board have never voluntarily placed a Negro child in an all-white school... During the period December 29, 1956 to May 1, 1960, 605,762 pupils were placed in public schools by this Board. The parents of 497 children filed the application for placement 'under protest'; only 362 parents refused to sign an application" and another "307" requested "for transfer" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). The report continues: "On the other hand, it can be stated with equal emphasis, that it was not up to this Board to accelerate or make plans to facilitate the mixing of the races in the public schools under the Brown decision. The Brown decision is not a decree to the states to integrate the races in the public schools. It is a negative prohibition only, and the burden of positive action to prove discrimination rests on those asserting it...
"A very substantial number of the 605,762 pupils placed, representing every county and city of this Commonwealth, were Negro children. The fact that there was any question at all in only 1,166 cases, and for practical purposes only 307 cases, shows that the overwhelming majority of Virginia parents, both white and Negro, basically favor the State policy as it existed prior to the Brown decision.
"It is tribute to our Negro citizens, as well as to our white citizens, that, despite all of the pressures brought to bear by certain organizations to force a mixing of the races, so few of them participated in this unwise attempt to upset the mores and customs of our people.
"It is also, in our opinion, proof of the fact that the overwhelming majority of our Negro citizens are proud of their race, its customs, its mores, and that neither they nor the members of the white race, wish to upset the historic policies of the State in which white and Negro have lived in mutual friendship, each following his own social patterns but with each according to the other his full legal, constitutional and civic rights" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
The Public Placement Board shares the following overall policy in its gubernatorial report: "This Board has no hesitancy in saying that it is completely and irrevocably opposed, individually and collectively, to what it deems to be the unconstitutional exercise of power by the Supreme Court of the United States in the Brown case. As stated above, however, the Board had no alternative but to take the position that that decision, accepted as a negative prohibition against segregation, might bind the Board to take actions it felt would be adverse to the best interests to all concerned. That question never faced the Board except in those cases where it was under the compulsive power of a potential contempt citation in the United States District Court.
"The Board has no hesitancy, whatsoever, in saying that its main policy was to fight, with every legal and honorable means, any attempted mixing of the races in the public schools. Under its construction of the law, the Board does not feel that it was, nor should its successors feel that they should be obligated to take one positive step toward the mixing of the races in the public schools. Only in the case when they could not forbid a given child to attend a given school except on the sole ground of race would they be compelled, by considerations of honor and law, to do that which was not best for the child" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
And in conclusion: "In the belief that both the white and Negro people agree that separate-but-equal-facilities is the best policy for the people of both races in Virginia; in the belief that the burden of proving any variation of that policy does not rest upon the State, or its agencies, as an affirmative obligation, but rests upon those seeking to vary the State's traditional policy, the members of the Board sincerely believe that Virginia should stand firm and should continue to resist on a State level and on every legal and honorable ground the unwise attempts to force the mixing of the races" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
The first requests by African Americans to attend all white high schools in Shenandoah County occurred in 1962 for the 1962-63 school year at Central High School and Strasburg High School; with a lawsuit issued against the Shenandoah County Public Schools superintendent, Shenandoah County School Board, and Pupil Placement Board and its members individually, at the start of the 1962-63 school year for "refusing to permit" an African American "to attend Central High School at Woodstock, in Shenandoah County, Virginia" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). The case proceeded from a form that was intentionally turned in after the mandated July 1st deadline, mentioned above. And although the case was withdrawn, it shook up the Pupil Placement Board - adding Shenandoah County to the list of integrated districts by the 1963-64 school year. But, before we look at this part of our county's educational history, we have to discuss another important detail that is at the very heart of these 52 weeks: the consolidation of secondary schools into three all-white high schools and the names they came to bear.
The Pupil Placement Board was created through Massive Resistance policies by Virginia's elected officials in 1956. The Library of Virginia today shares specific details on how the board operated: "The Pupil Placement Board... was charged with assigning, enrolling, or placing students to and in public schools." It included three, governor-appointed members that assigned students according to "the health of the pupil, his or her aptitudes, the availability of transportation, and 'such other relevant matters as may be pertinent to the efficient operation of the schools or indicate a clear and present danger to the public peace and tranquility affecting the safety or welfare of the citizens of such school district'." Prior to the establishment of this state-level board, school districts or their respective superintendents handled these assignments. The Pupil Placement Board followed the traditions of the individual school districts, focusing their efforts on those students that transitioned to a new school or sought transfer to another school, whether or not that was in the same district or a different district. Although the members of the Pupil Placement board resigned as of June 1, 1960, based on a report to Governor Almond, the board was not officially abolished until 1966 by an act of General Assembly.
Perusing the records of the Pupil Placement Board, there are several important tidbits to know surrounding this time period - all of which are consequential for recognizing the politically-motivated name choice for Shenandoah County's southern campus high school in 1959.
First, some of the records include folders with race-related pamphlets, personal letters addressed to the board, and similar argumentative propaganda to promote racial segregation. These public opinion pieces were read by board members.
Some of the documentation includes sermons like "Fusion of the Races: A Mongrel America Tomorrow," which was delivered by a pastor in Richmond, VA, and focused on the divinity of racial identity and the warning that the tower of Babel holds for pro-integration advocates. Articles and essays by psychiatrists hypothesized the importance of segregation by reminding of the adverse psychological impacts on African American youth. In "Brief Communications: Integrated Schools and Negro Character Development," published in Psychiatry, the authors note: "The very language is alive with negative color connotations: An objectionable deed is a 'dark' deed, an evil look is a 'black' look, a scoundrel is a 'blackguard' or a 'black sheep.' Advertisements, the films, and television foster Caucasian esthetic preferences. Every Negro, child or adult, goes through life unsure of acceptance in the environment which constitutes his social world. We are here concerned, however, with the school situation in which the Negro child finds himself at an age when he may be particularly sensitive to the influences in an environment of such high emotional salience" (1964:72). Also included was Form No. 118 created by the Christian Educational Assn, Union, New Jersey, showing a ten cel cartoon depicting an African American boy and Caucasian American girl marrying and having children together. It concludes: "Wake up for your country's sake, City and State, for your own sake and the future generations sake, and the white peoples sake as well as the colored peoples sake. Our enemies are behind the move. They have been undermining us for the last 30 or 40 years. We are so divided, that if a war started tomorrow, God only knows where we would land. Our enemy is organized - but we are not" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va) - provided to support an argument against integration.
Handwritten letters, deemed public opinion, reminded the Pupil Placement Board of the problems integration would cause in the community. One anonymous letter began with "VENERAL Disease" underlined at the top and stated: "The Department of Health reported 854 cases of gonorrhea alone among school children in 1955 - 97 percent were Negroes. Now if any white child gets a germ from this truble, the Federal government can be sued..." (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
A letter in cursive blue ink reads: "Pupil Placement Board, I just want to say that I hope and pray that any of you that agree to put colored pupils in any of the white schools won't be able to put all your families children in private or all white schools and that a negro will marry some of them, because when they mix in classes they'll mix in activities and then socially. You are really asking for a lot of grief for poorer people who can not afford private teachers, etc... In my Bible the colored descendants were a matter of punishment to Ham, and if God made them different he must have intended for us to live separately. They don't want equal rights. They would rather go to a white tumbled down school than a new all colored school and you all know it too. They have equal schools and teachers now. Don't be stupid. Look further ahead" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va).
Another typed anonymous letter shares, "Can't you people see what will happen if you keep entering negro's in our white schools mixing them with our white childred, what kind of a race will we have in fifty years from now. PLEASE WAKE UP, The negros have schools of their own why do you want to mix them with our white childred. DO YOU HAVE ANY RESPECT FOR OUR WHITE CHILDREN" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
Stamped June 15, 1962, a long letter to "All Americans" from the White Citizens National Organization for the Betterment of America includes the following sentiments: "...join with us in the national organization so we will be strong enough to put the right people in all government positions, Federal and State. This will preserve the traditional free, God loving peaceful America, which is the American peoples most glorious heritage, that was bought with the sweat and blood of our forefathers, and left to us as a sacred legacy.
"The American negroes have been organized by a certain communistic inspired association. And through with about one third or less of the negroes being organized they have brought about supreme court rulings and law makings that are not only un-constitutional but un-american as well. You see even the inferior negroes know that this can only be accomplished through organization, and has organized. Most of the negroes don't even understand what they are doing by their boycotts and unamerican measures brought about by this organization, but they do understand it takes organization to do it.
"Certainly we the white citizens of America can organize a much larger and more powerful organization than the negroes have, and counteract the actions brought about by this communistic inspired organization.... We... plan to have delegates we can send to all supreme court hearings to oppose what we do not approve of. We will have chosen delegates to meet with the local and state government heads to oppose giving our schools, swimming pools, parks etc. to the negroes; or to cover any other matter of which we do not approve" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va).
Another cursive script, blue-inked letter shares the following public opinion: "Sirs. I was under the impression that in a democracy the majority had some freedom of choice. The majority of the people of this state do not want integration and you are pouring the negro riff-raff by scores and hundreds into our white schools - you are falling into great disfavor with the people... You are letting a bunch of howling, crocodile singing and praying, jumping up and down negroes scare you to death... What has become of the red blood, in plain English, the guts of the males of our state who are supposed to be leaders?" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). The Pupil Placement Board executive secretary responded to every letter, if it was signed and addressed. The previous letter had the following response: "We have your letter of June 24, 1963, which was read to the Pupil Placement Board when it was in session in June. We appreciate your interest" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.). Each public opinion, no matter how racist, was shared openly at the board's meetings.
That public opinion folder also included pamphlets from anti-integration organizations like the ATAC, which distributed a Racial Facts tri-fold with information derived from various sources claiming:
- "the illegitimacy record of the Negro and the Venereal Disease rate are just as high or higher in the so-called integrated and Civil Rights states as they are in the Deep South"
- "the time honored and history proven custom of segregation has been a major factor in the South's great progress since Reconstruction"
- "segregation provides for better educational opportunities, assembling students of similar interest, background and characteristics"
- "integration would result in miscegenation and a mongrelized population with little pride of race, nation or religion and would thus weaken the United States"
- "the perfect solution to the race problem would be geographical separation but the best alternative is neighborhood and social separation"
- "the races of man are the handiwork of God, as is everything in nature. If He had wanted only one type of man, He would have created only one." (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.)
This sampling of information and pamphlets was only a small part of Virginia's Pupil Placement Board folders in the Library of Virginia. It shows the kind of information that influenced the board. However, there are also meeting minutes, personal interviews or placement records, and correspondence with local superintendents, parents, and more. We will look at correspondence and minutes next week.
In light of the information we first noted above in regards to the Pupil Placement Board's folders, it's important to recognize the inherent bias in the purpose of the Pupil Placement Board. Each student requesting a transfer or moving into another Virginia school (from primary to high) was placed by the board. All white students were automatically assigned to schools for white children. All black students were automatically assigned to schools for black children, which in Shenandoah County meant they were bussed out of county once they reached 7th grade or required to go to a boarding school elsewhere (see Week 42: Education Without Heart). If a parent requested their child transferred to a school in the county, and - because the records do not have one request by a white parent requesting their white child to attend a black school - more specifically, if an African American parent requested their African American child to transfer to one of the whites-only schools in Shenandoah County, they were inflicted to a personal interview, which included the following questions:
- "1. What do you think about and what is your attitude toward the school your child is presently attending?"
- "2. Are you satisfied with the teachers there?"
- "3. With the principal there?"
- "4. The instruction your child is getting there?"
- "5. Is your child progressing generally well and in an orderly manner there?"
- "6. Would the change away from former friends or teachers be really for the benefit of your child?"
- "7. If answer is 'yes' - why?"
- "8. Is the application for transfer being made solely to enforce a so-called 'Constitutional right'?"
- "9. Just what are all the reasons you desire the transfer?"
- "10. What is your occupation?" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.)
Both parents were required to answer these questions, independently if possible. The board even similarly questioned the child, separately from the parents:
- "1. How are you getting along in the school you have been attending?"
- "2. What do you think about the principal there?"
- "3. About your teachers there?"
- "4. What would you yourself really prefer to do?"
- "5. Why?"
- "6. What do you plan to be when you grow up?" (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.)
In addition, the district superintendent would map the location of the family's home in relation to the current school they were attending and the school to which they requested transfer, as well as provide test scores, age, grade level, and any other information gleaned regarding the child seeking a transfer. As we will see next week, the information was not always pertinent to the child's education.
Ultimately, the Pupil Placement Board, in a telephone conference meeting dated September 9, 1959, claimed the following position: "It has always been the basic position of the Pupil Placement Board that the decision in Brown vs Board of Education was not a decree forbidding discrimination on the sole ground of race or color... there is no obligation upon any State agency to come forth with any plan for desegregation, or any obligation to accelerate the process." (Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.).
How was this received by the African American populace in Shenandoah County? How did this directly impact our schools? We'll explore that next week by turning our attention to relevant Pupil Placement Board minutes and correspondence.
Last week, we read a 9th grader's winning essay from John S Mosby Academy's 1960 essay contest that stated "It stands for the right thing; the separation of the Negroes and the whites. These facts should make us even more determined to build a new school and fight integration. Even after we had built the Negroes a nice, modern elementary and high school combined, they followed Oliver Hill and forced us out of our high school" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 75, No. 50, 29 February 1960, p.3). To understand this essay, as well as Warren County's closure of schools (see Week 45: Rebuilding a Pro-Confederate South), we have to look at a 1954 Supreme Court case and Virginia's race-based laws that guided the public school system.
The 1902 Constitution of Virginia, which was a revision to the 1869 Constitution that had established public education, explicitly stated what had already been implied and practiced throughout the state: "white and colored children shall not be taught in the same school" (Article IX, Sec. 140, 1902). This attitude was amplified as Jim Crow laws and societal expectations separated African Americans from Caucasian Americans across the South. The General Assembly passed the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, as well as several other laws aimed at protecting "whiteness" from race-mixing. In a Health Bulletin from the Virginia Department of Health, which distributed guidelines to registrars for the purpose "to preserve racial integrity," the following guidelines are communicated: "As color is the most important feature of this form of registration, the local registrar must be sure that there is no trace of colored blood in anyone offering to register as a white person. The penalty for wilfully making a false claim as to color is one year in the penitentiary. Equal care must henceforth be used in stating the color of the parents of children registered at birth under the 1912 law" (Vol XVI, No 1, March 1924). This ideal of racial integrity was most alive in eugenics, which led to laws against mixed race marriages, as well as forced sterilization practices on minority groups in America, especially African American and Indigenous American women.
Locally, concepts of racial integrity cropped up in places of worship: "About one-half of the community is enrolled in six churches - four white and two colored" (Strasburg News, Volume 50, Number 1, 6 January 1932, p16). In doctors appointments: "The Warren County Board of Health cooperating with the Virginia State Department of Health-Tuberculosis Out-Patient Service announces that the chest examination of adults by a specialist of the State Department of Health will be held for white people on Tuesday, May 10, between the hours of 9 and 12 a.m. and for colored people between the hours of 1 and 4 p.m. in the nurse's office in the school" (Strasburg News, Volume 50, Number 17, 27 April 1932 p.1). From newspaper sections to public restrooms, civil leagues to playgrounds, separate swimming times in community pools to public schools, and even the right of local businesses to choose whether or not to admit or serve African Americans, segregation was a natural part of life for America into the 1960s.
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) set the standard of "separate but equal" (see Week 43: Where's the 'Common Sense Consideration'?); however, a perusal of facilities across the South revealed this wasn't the case in public education, especially as school districts began their school consolidation plans (see Week 44: An Out-of-area Education). This was the foundation upon which Oliver Hill, a Virginian lawyer and World War II veteran, based his work toward desegregation in America. Hill's work regarding the desegregation of public schools began in 1942 with his first lawsuit against Sussex County, Virginia for admittance of five African American girls to schools that served their white population. Like Shenandoah County, Va, African Americans that wanted a high school education were sent out of county. This, Hill argued, was unconstitutional, since the county did not provide equal separate opportunities for the two races. When the school board opted to pay for transportation to send African Americans to the out-of-county school and admit students to the local high school, the case was dismissed. However, the case in Sussex County set a precedent for tactics used to tear down the institution of segregation that had taken hold of our country.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) incorporated several school boards and boards of education around The United States that were embroiled in five different court cases, including one in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County (103 F. Supp. 337, 1952) centered around a student-led protest to integrate schools due to the dismal conditions of the African American high school that were refused alleviation through better funding by an all-white school board. Oliver Hill and another lawyer from the civil rights organization that had formed in 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), filed suit on behalf of 117 students trying to integrate Prince William County schools. The court rejected this request; an appeal consolidated it with court cases from South Carolina, Washington DC, Delaware, and Kansas into Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and under the helm of American lawyer, Thurgood Marshall. The outcome was a 9-0 vote in favor of Brown after nearly two years of deliberation. The Court stated: "Today, education is perhaps the most important function of our local and state governments... it is the very foundation of good citizenship" (Fauquier Democrat, Vol. 49, No. 24, 20 May 1954, p.6) and concluded that in addition to the 14th Amendment (see Week 5: The 13th Amendment), since public schools were not in place in 1868, they would have to "consider public education in light of its full development and its present place in American life throughout the Nation" (Brown, 347 U.S. 483, 1954). Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered an opinion on the ruling that took into account the psychological impact of students, particularly minority students: "Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law; for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the Negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to retard the educational and mental development of Negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racially integrated school system" (Brown, 347 U.S. 483, 17 May 1954, p.10). Warren continues: "We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal" (Brown, 347 U.S. 483, 17 May 1954, p.11).
The impact of Brown v. Board was widespread as the ruling encouraged desegregation "with all deliberate speed." From Little Rock, Arkansas (1957) to the first integrated Virginia schools in Arlington (1959), African American students, often encouraged by their parents and supportive community members, were claiming their right to equal education at public schools. Following the 1954 Brown ruling, then Virginia governor, Thomas Stanley (1954-1958) responded, "I shall use every legal means at my command to continue segregated education in Virginia" ("Integrating Alexandria" in The Connection, 22 February 2006), a position which was followed by future Virginia governors, Governor Lindsay Almond (1958-1962), Albertis Harrison (1962-66), and Mills Godwin (1966-1970). By mid-September 1954, Stanley had drawn together a legislative commission of 32 bi-partisan representatives and senators to "recommend a course of action in connection with the Supreme Court's school segregation decision" (Farmville Herald and Farmer-Leader, Vol 63, No 96, 31 August 1954, p.1). Some of the highlights from this council included not requiring compulsory school attendance, providing tuition grants to parents that opposed integration, and allowing local school boards to choose which schools students attended. "A constitutional convention unanimously proclaimed the amendment yesterday. It will permit legislative enactment of the tuition plan provided in the Gray Education Commission program for avoiding enforced integration in Virginia's public schools" (Southwest Times, Vol 51, No 14, 8 March 1956, p.1).
By February 1956, Virginia was promoting Massive Resistance, an anti-integration strategy orchestrated under the guidance of Senator Harry Byrd, who was central to the political life of Virginia from 1916-1965. "Sen. Byrd called today for 'massive resistance' in the South to challenge the Supreme Court order to racial integration in the public schools... 'If we can organize the Southern states for massive resistance to this order I think that in time the rest of the country will realize that racial integration is not going to be accepted in the South,' he said" (Suffolk News-Herald, Volume 34, Number 48, 26 February 1956, p1). Byrd, whose family lived in the Berryville area and was well-known in the Shenandoah Valley, had been one of the leading figures in the Gray Education Commission and impacted the Almond administration.
The term 'massive resistance' was a play on names of the 'passive resistance' orchestrated mostly by African American clergymen in the 1950s, regarding segregated buses, even before the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organized in 1960. One local paper shared: "Negroes refuse to ride segregated buses in Montgomery, Ala., cradle of the Confederacy. Their leaders, indicted on charges of illegal boycott, call for continued 'passive resistance.'" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol 74, No 49, 28 February 1956, p.6). The term, meaning "refusal to go along when the government is considered wrong" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol 74, No 49, 28 February 1956, p.6), was derived from Thoreau's philosophical writings on civil disobedience. Instead of focusing on Thoreau, organizers of 'massive resistance' drew their ideals "from ideas expounded by the founding fathers" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol 74, No 49, 28 February 1956, p.6).
Those foundational principles were captured in the Southern Manifesto, which was written during the February and March 1956 sessions of Congress. Formally titled, Declaration of Constitutional Principles, the Southern Manifesto denounced the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board as "a clear abuse of judicial power" and encouraged Southern leaders to resist desegregation. Here are highlights from that document that are worth noting:
- "The Founding Fathers... framed this Constitution with its provisions for change by amendment in order to secure the fundamentals of government against the dangers of temporary popular passion or the personal predilections of public officeholders."
- "When the (14th) amendment was adopted in 1868, there were 37 States of the Union... Every one of the 26 States that had any substantial racial differences among its people, either approved the operation of segregated schools already in existence or subsequently established such schools by action of the same law-making body which considered the 14th Amendment."
- "This unwarranted exercise of power by the Court, contrary to the Constitution, is creating chaos and confusion in the States principally affected. It is destroying the amicable relations between the white and Negro races that have been created through 90 years of patient effort by the good people of both races. It has planted hatred and suspicion where there has been heretofore friendship and understanding"
- "We commend the motives of those States which have declared the intention to resist forced integration by any lawful means."
- "We pledge ourselves to use all lawful means to bring about a reversal of this decision which is contrary to the Constitution and to prevent the use of force in its implementation."
- "In this trying period, as we all seek to right this wrong, we appeal to our people not to be provoked by the agitators and troublemakers invading our States and to scrupulously refrain from disorder and lawless acts."
The Southern Manifesto was signed by 112 southern members of Congress, including Virginia's own senators, Willis Robertson and Harry Byrd, and ten representing Virginia from the House of Representatives. Stanley's response to the manifesto was one of hope that it would "be effective in the protection of the rights of the states which have been threatened in so many instances, in and outside the South, and which include the right of operating our public school systems" (Suffolk News-Herald, Vol 34, No 62, 13 March 1956, p.1).
By this time, Massive Resistance included laws that refused state funding to schools that supported integration, gave power to the governor to close schools, and established a state-level Pupil Placement Board for assigning students to schools throughout the state. As we will see, the Pupil Placement Board followed established practices in districts, seeking to reinforce the status quo, which was predominantly a racially segregated school system.
In 1959 with massive resistance found to be unconstitutional, Governor Almond's position highlighted similarities to the massive resistance encouraged by Gray, but framed in a way that allowed for controlled integration over a long period of time, so that the administration did not go against the Brown decision and in hopes that the federal opinion might change. The Northern Virginia Daily shares: "He took occasion to attack the U.S. Supreme Court and said that as governor he 'will not yield to that which I know to be wrong and will destroy every rational semblance of public education for thousands' of Virginia children. The people, 'they and they alone,' will decide these issues, said Almond. He added, 'we have just begun to fight.' He said no price is too high to pay and no burden too heavy to bear 'to protect the people of Virginia in the proper enjoyment of their right and obligation to mold the character and promote the welfare of their children through the exercises of their voice and judgment in their education and development.' Almond declared people of Virginia through their elected representatives and by expressing their convictions at the polls 'have repeatedly made it crystal clear that they cannot and will not support a system of public education on a racially integrated basis. I made it equally clear that I cannot and that I will not break faith with them.' The governor said no parent or guardian 'is under legal compulsion from any source to send a child to a racially-mixed school.' He lauded the magnificent response of people in certain areas to the emergency resulting from the closing of nine public schools. 'The hardships and sacrifices have constituted a challenge to overcome obstacles with the result that fundamentally sound educational progress is being made without chaos or undue confusion,' he said" (Northern Virginia Daily, Volume 77, Number 17, 21 January 1959, p.8).
"In some of the five still wholly segregated states, integration is not even considered a serious possibility in the near future. In the others, there is increasing realization that the time draws nearer when a hard choice may be faced: accept integration or close the public schools. Determination to resist as long as possible and yield only under overwhelming pressure is widespread..." states another local paper. "Virginia's 'massive resistance' program collapsed and it experimented with private schools before adopting a freedom of choice plan. Under it, some schools have integrated. In Prince Edward County, on the other hand, public schools were closed and private schools were opened for white children" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol 75, No 24, 29 January 1960, p.7). This freedom of choice plan, which we saw in conjunction with Warren County Public School closure, provided a "local option on school mixing, with the extent of that mixing to be limited sharply everywhere through careful screening under a pupil-placement plan... the U.S. Supreme Court has held that a pupil-placement plan is proper so long as it does not bar Negroes from white schools solely because of race..." thus "it may well be legal to limit drastically the number of Negroes in formerly all-white schools, perhaps for generations, such things as health, location of schools and homes, personal qualifications, etc." (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol 75, No 9, 12 January 1960, p.1).
Next week, our focus is entirely on the Pupil Placement Board, as well as its impact on the Shenandoah County Public Schools system, which was then still steeped in Virginia's 1902 law: "white and colored children shall not be taught in the same school" (Article IX, Sec. 140, 1902).
Meanwhile, also in the first part of the 20th century, overlapping consolidation of schools in Shenandoah County, VA, the UDC or United Daughters of the Confederacy was working to promote the education of the Lost Cause narrative throughout the Southern states, throughout Virginia, and even in our own county. We've already seen the UDC's influence in Mt Jackson, with the erection of a Confederate memorial in 1903 (see Week 43: Where's the 'Common Sense Consideration'?) that was supposed to promote "brave men of both armies ... reunited in one great American brotherhood, one citizenship, ... in the pursuits of peace and the promotion of the welfare of our reunited country" (Our Church Paper, Vol. 23, No. 20, 15 May 1895, published in New Market, Va, p.4), but really only promoted the Confederate perspective. The 2017 Vox-created, TEDEd talk, How Southern socialites rewrote Civil War history, shares the truth of UDC's work in perpetuating the Lost Cause narrative in a much more concise way than I can - and includes the following quote by Dr. Karen Cox, author of Dixie's Daughters, who said, "Monuments are the least of what they did... they are the most visible and tangible, but their work with children was far more influential."
The Confederate statue in Mt. Jackson wasn't the first pro-Confederacy monument in Shenandoah County. A memorial service led by the Stover Camp Chapter UDC on May 24, 1963 included "the dedication of the plaques to the unknown soldiers and the 120 known veterans buried in the Lutheran, Riverview and Presbyterian Cemeteries and the Old Graveyard... the monument where the unknown soldiers were buried was erected in 1896 by Stover Camp No. 20, Confederate Veterans, at a cost of $675. Standing 20 ft. high and six-foot at the base, the monument was unveiled on Sept. 20, 1896." At the 1963 event, "the Strasburg High School Band played 'Faith of Our Fathers.' The UDC, the 11 girls that represented the Confederate States, the Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts, participated in the strewing of the flowers at the monument." In addition, the pastor of the Methodist Church spoke, saying: "if people today had the courage the Confederate soldiers and the South had during the trying times of the War Between the States, there would be no fear of Communism today. For soldiers to go back to their homes and farms... took more courage than to die on the battle field. Victory came in the re-building of the South" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 78, No. 124, 27 May 1963, p. 1-2).
Rebuilding a pro-Confederate South is exactly what the UDC was doing. The Texas State Historical Association defines the UDC as "a women's heritage organization best known for honoring Confederate veterans of the Civil War, memorializing the Confederacy, and promoting the 'Lost Cause' interpretation of southern history, which positions Old South slavery as a benevolent institution, Confederate soldiers as heroic defenders of states' rights, and Reconstruction as a period of northern aggression, through its monuments and educational campaigns" (United Daughters of the Confederacy, 2023). These key concepts of education and patriotism via remembrance are observable through local newspaper articles. For example, the Manassas Journal shares an article on "Children of the Confederacy Prizes" for 1935, which were issued in connection with the "State and National Convention." Each year, the Virginia Division of the UDC, which was organized in 1894, offered prizes to high school students throughout the state for writing essays based on various pro-Confederate themes. Prizes mentioned in the Manassas article were awarded for impacts in the community by local chapters, including: "to the chapter director who places in school libraries the largest number of books on Confederate history, to be used as supplemental reading," "to the division director chartering the largest number of Children's chapters," and also for written essays, on themes such as "The Right of Secession" (Manassas Journal, Vol. 66, No. 43, 7 March 1935, p.7).
There appear to have been four local chapters of the UDC in Shenandoah County during the first half of the 20th century. Ironically or intentionally, these were located in the same towns where African American primary schools were located: Strasburg, Woodstock, Mt. Jackson, and New Market. The Stover Camp Chapter of the UDC, which was located in Strasburg, VA and most likely the oldest chapter in the county, was widely active in the community according to an October 7, 1915 issue of the Strasburg News along with an appeal: "It is hoped that this committee will be enthusiastically supported by the various communities in which they may work" (Strasburg News, Vol 33, No. 36, 7 October 1915, p.1). By 1964, which coincided with the signing of "the Civil Rights pledge for Shenandoah County" by the School Board (Shenandoah County School Board minutes, 11 January 1964), the UDC no longer appeared in local newspapers. However, prior to its last mention, there appeared to be two particularly active chapters in Shenandoah County: one in Strasburg and one in Mt. Jackson - both locations where Confederate monuments were raised over burials of soldiers - some of whom were identified as Confederate soldiers and others, unidentifiable, which means they may not have been Confederate soldiers. If these graves truly honor the "brave men of both armies ... reunited in one great American brotherhood, one citizenship, ... in the pursuits of peace and the promotion of the welfare of our reunited country" (Our Church Paper, Vol. 23, No. 20, 15 May 1895, published in New Market, Va, p.4), then why does it have to be done only from the perspective of the Confederacy?
Dr. Eakin in Twelve Years a Slave, the 1853 autobiography of free African American Solomon Northup who was kidnapped and sold into slavery through the Reverse Underground Railroad in 1841, shares the impact of education by example on children: "The effect of these exhibitions of brutality on the household of the slave-holder, is apparent. Epps' oldest son is an intelligent lad of ten or twelve years of age. It is pitiable, sometimes, to see him chastising, for instance, the venerable Uncle Abram. He will call the old man to account, and if in his childish judgment it is necessary, sentence him to a certain number of lashes, which he proceeds to inflict with much gravity and deliberation. Mounted on his pony, he often rides into the field with his whip, playing the overseer, greatly to his father's delight. Without discrimination, at such times, he applies the rawhide, urging the slaves forward with shouts, and occasional expressions of profanity, while the old man laughs, and commends him as a thorough-going boy.
"'The child is father to the man,' and with such training, whatever may be his natural disposition, it cannot well be otherwise than that, on arriving at maturity, the sufferings and miseries of the slave will be looked upon with entire indifference. The influence of the iniquitous system necessarily fosters an unfeeling and cruel spirit, even in the bosoms of those who, among their equals, are regarded as humane and generous.
"Young Master Epps possessed some noble qualities, yet no process of reasoning could lead him to comprehend, that in the eye of the Almighty there is no distinction of color. He looked upon the black man simply as an animal, differing in no respect from any other animal, save in the gift of speech and the possession of somewhat higher instincts, and, therefore, the more valuable. To work like his father's mules - to be whipped and kicked and scourged through life - to address the white man with hat in hand, and eyes bent servilely on the earth, in his mind, was the natural and proper destiny of the slave. Brought up with such ideas in the notion that we stand without the pale of humanity - no wonder the oppressors of my people are a pitiless and unrelenting race" (Eakin, Twelve Years a Slave, 2013:155-156).
Education, according to Miriam-Webster, is "knowledge, skill, and development gained from study or practice." And to educate is "to train by formal instruction and supervised practice; to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically especially by instruction; to persuade or condition to feel, believe, or act in a desired way." The Encyclopedia Britannica states in its entry on the United Daughters of the Confederacy: "The UDC played a central role in spreading and perpetuating the Lost Cause interpretation of the American Civil War, which downplays or dismisses slavery as a cause of the war and instead emphasizes states' rights as the reason for secession and which has been used to serve the goals of white supremacists. The UDC was instrumental in ensuring that the characterization of the war in textbooks conformed to the Lost Cause narrative." (Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "United Daughters of the Confederacy". Encyclopedia Britannica, 11 Sep. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/topic/United-Daughters-of-the-Confederacy. Accessed 13 September 2023).
One of the foundational principles of the UDC was education, especially of pro-Confederate sentiments and in the honoring of Confederate soldiers as godlike heroes. An example of the 1904 catechism that the U.D.C. dispersed to children includes some of the following excerpted sentiments:
" What causes led to the war between the States, from 1861 to 1865?
The disregard, on the part of States of the North, for the rights of the Southern or slave-holding States.
" How was this shown?
By the passage of laws in the Northern States annulling the rights of the people of the South - rights that were given to them by the Constitution of the United States.
" What were these rights?
The rights to regulate their own affairs and to hold slaves as property.
 Did the people of the South believe that slavery was right?
No, not as a principle; and the colonies of Virginia and Georgia had strongly opposed its first introduction, but after the Constitution of the United States had recognized the slaves as property, and the wealth of the South was largely invested in negroes, they did not feel it was just to submit to wholesale robbery.
 What was the first step taken by the seceded States?
They proceeded to organize a government, by uniting themselves under the name of the Confederate States of America, and adopted a Constitution for their guidance.
 Was the Confederate army defeated?
No; it was overpowered by numbers, and its resources exhausted.
 What other purpose have the Daughters of the Confederacy?
To teach their children from generation to generation that there was no stain upon the action of their forefathers in the war between the States..." (U.D.C. Catechism for Children, Encyclopedia Virginia, 1904).
An important note about this catechism: as mentioned in Week 2: Confederate Congress, the Constitution for the Confederate States of America provided for slavery in its constitution; however, America's founding fathers left slavery out of the US Constitution. More specifically, if you were to create a word cloud of the 100 most frequently used words (outside of articles, prepositions, adverbs, linking verbs, and similar parts of speech) of the 1861 Confederate Constitution, it would reveal 167 usages of the word "states," 35 uses of "slavery" or "property," and less than 4 of "free," "independent," or "sovereign." The 1789 Constitution of the United States of America, on the other hand, contains 129 instances of "states" and no mention of "slavery," "freedom," "independence," or "sovereignty." In fact 25% of the most commonly used words in the United States Constitution - "united/union," "equal," "affirmation," "amendments," "ambassadors," "meeting," "ministers," "proceedings," and "trust" - are not mentioned at all in the Confederate Constitution. Similarly, words that are part of the Confederate Constitution that are completely missing from the United States Constitution include: "confederate/confederacy," "appropriation," "departments," "slaves," "territory," "property," "compensation," and "revenue." This all implies that one of the greatest differences between the US Constitution and the Confederate Constitution boils down to slavery and property rights. If we go back farther and create a word cloud for the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union from 1777, "states" is mentioned 142 times and "land," 4 times; there is no mention of "slavery" at all. You also don't find "peace," "faith," or "welfare."
Following the American Civil War, men who fought against the country in which they were born, were offered a second chance, re-established as citizens, and given welfare in the form of pensions. In addition to Confederate soldiers, the widows of Confederate soldiers also received pensions from the U.S. government. A pension notice in a local 1900s newspaper states: "All Confederate Veterans and widows of Confederate Veterans who wish to apply for pensions, whether they have or have not received blanks or applications, should appear personally before the Pension Board of Shenandoah County, in the County Clerk's office, Woodstock... be certain to take with you the evidence to establish your right to a pension" (Edinburg Sentinel and Valley Advertiser, Volume 7, Number 34, 7 June 1900 p. 3). Keep in mind this is after the dissolution of the Freedmen's Bureau, which was the only source of aid to recently freed African Americans after the American Civil War. Confederate soldiers, who had fought against the United States of America, and the widows of Confederate soldiers were receiving funds from the government throughout their lifetimes, not just for a couple of years. True patriotism would recognize the benevolence of this action, as well as the general clemency directed toward former Confederates, on the part of the United States. Instead, the patriotism promoted by the UDC was more toward the CSA, than to the USA.
Shenandoah County's local chapters of the UDC met monthly, promoting historical scholarship, camaraderie, and community outreach, all with a focus on preserving and honoring the legacy of the Confederacy. The key to all of this was in passing educational information and including children in the rituals and observances of pro-Confederate celebrations. Just like Epps' son imitating the examples he saw around him, the UDC was encouraging children to continue the pro-Confederate observances they were modeling. Each meeting began with "the UDC ritual and pledge of allegiance to the American and Confederate flags" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 76, No. 301, 23 December 1958, p.5). The following shares a list of only some of the actions these UDC chapters undertook to promote their mission in the community over the course of 60 years:
- The Mt. Jackson UDC appointed a committee "to confer with the local high school faculty and request that a program commemorating the birth of Robt. E. Lee, be presented at chapel exercises on January 19" (Northern Virginia Daily, Volume 54, Number 314, 8 January 1937, p.7).
- The Shenandoah Chapter of the UDC (located in Woodstock, VA) paid equal attention to private schools, as well, offering "a picture of Generals Lee and Jackson to Massanutten Academy" in January 1939 (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 57, No. 16, 19 January 1939, p. 7).
- That same month, "the Breckenbridge Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, commemorated the birthdays of Lee and Jackson in the New Market Theatre... with a program by the pupils of New Market graded school and by the High School Glee Clubs. The theatre was filled with capacity and everyone enjoyed the splendid program," which included: an "invocation," an "exercise - Robert E. Lee's Life, third grade pupils," a "Poem - Robert E. Lee - by Fourth Grade pupils," and a benediction (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 57, No. 19, 23 January 1939, p.5).
- In May 1939, Woodstock hosted the convention for the fourth Virginia district UDC, which gathered approximately 200 attendees. And during the summer of the same year, the Shenandoah Chapter held a "Long, Long Ago Party" that featured relics, attire, "etc., of the period of the War Between the States" and also included as "an enjoyable feature of the evening... the old-time melodies sung by local colored singers" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 57, o. 182, 2 August 1939, p.5). The New Market UDC began a similar tradition of such an old-time event on the third weekend of September beginning in 1938, according to the Vol. 57, No. 220 issue of the Northern Virginia Daily.
- The first Sunday in June, 1946, marked decoration day in Mt Jackson, as the town's UDC chapter hosted a memorial service at the Confederate Cemetery (see Week 43: Where's the 'Common Sense Consideration'? for more on this cemetery in Mt Jackson) with a note advertised for "all those participating in the parade... to meet back of the Triplett School" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 64, No. 128, 30 May 1946, p.4.). The following year, the Mt Jackson UDC celebrated its 50th anniversary. It had formed in September 1897 and recalled one of its greatest accomplishments: "the dedication of the Confederacy Monument which was unveiled in the Confederate Cemetery north of town June 4, 1903." The article continues: "this was one of the biggest days in the history of Mt. Jackson and many of the present members had participated as children in that parade" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 65, No. 236, 4 October 1947, p. 3).
- The Stover Camp Chapter UDC in Strasburg voted at their July 1950 meeting to make "equipment of the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Library at the (Strasburg) high school... one of the UDC's main projects for the year" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 68, No. 166, 10 July 1950, p 3). Note this is the high school in Strasburg before the school board's consolidation into three high schools in 1959.
- The following year, Strasburg's UDC held "a program commemorating the birthdays of Lee, Jackson and Maury at the Strasburg High School auditorium" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 69, No. 51, 1 March 1951, p.5). The event included: "salute to the Confederate Flag," music by high school students, and the dedication of a book to the school library.
- In 1957, the UDC reported that it had met all its goals for the year, including the fact that "Stover Camp Chapter in Strasburg has raised its quota for placing Stonewall Jackson's bust in Virginia's Hall of Fame" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 75, No. 58, 9 March 1957, p.3).
- In 1958, "the latest book of Harnett Kane, The Gallant Mrs. Stonewall, was presented... to the librarian of the Strasburg Public school for the school library" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 76, No. 17, 21 January 1958, p. 5).
- By 1959, the Virginia UDC had 4,831 members, with one of the local chapter's goals as "an increase in membership" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol 77, No. 36, 12 February 1959, p.6).
- A UDC historian prepared a paper read during the Stover Camp and which stated: "The dispossessed people of the Confederacy displaced a spirit of bravery, courage, faith and hope in spite of what had befallen. They forgot hostilities and looked forward to a new life, rebuilding the Southland, improving their way of living and remembering their Constitutional rights as bequeathed them by their forefathers" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol 77, No 81, 6 April 1959, p.7).
- In January 1960, the Strasburg UDC shared a program "to an assembly of students from the fourth through the seventh grades at the Strasburg Elementary school" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 75, No. 19, 23 January 1960, p.6).
- The Stover Camp Chapter continued their tradition of gifting books to school libraries, as well, in honor of Lee-Jackson-Maury birthdays: "a book, Robert E. Lee, and the Road to Honor, was presented to the Strasburg Elementary School" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 75, No. 33, 9 February 1960, p.5).
- In June 1961, during the Civil War Centennial, a memorial service at the Soldier's Cemetery in Mt Jackson drew "hundreds of people from the Valley... and the parade... included children from the Triplett Elementary School carrying flowers, ...members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy of Mt. Jackson and Strasburg... and Cub Scouts... The Stonewall Jackson High School Band played at the Cemetery before and following the program... The children and UDC leaders placed their bouquets around the base of the monument, and small flags beneath the shadow of the monument" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 76, No. 134, 8 June 1961, p.9). It's important to note that the person responsible for naming Stonewall Jackson High School (and later Ashby-Lee Elementary School) was the guest speaker for this occasion.
- And in May 1962, "in memory of the birthday of Jefferson Davis on June 3, the chapter members voted to donate a book to the Strasburg Community Library" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 77, No. 117, 17 May 1962, p.9). "Other books of interest to students and lovers of the history of the Confederacy are to be found on the shelves of the Community Library and the public is invited to make use of these books" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 77, No. 258, 3 November 1962, p.7).
- In January 1963, the Strasburg UDC decorated "the Community Library windows to honor the birthday of Robert E. Lee," and were "in charge of the student assembly at the Strasburg Elementary School Jan 23, commemorating the birthdays of Lee, Jackson, Maury and Lanier" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 78, No. 4, 5 January 1963, p.5).
- "A committee of five appeared before the Board to discuss tentative plans for commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of the battle of New Market on May 15, 1964. Upon a recommendation... passed by the Board that the bands of the three high schools participate in the commemoration program and that the New Market School auditorium be used for the Blue and Gray Ball. It was further recommended that schools in the county be closed on May 15th in order that all students may attend" (Shenandoah County School Board minutes, 12 August 1963).
While all this was happening in Shenandoah County, Warren County had a flurry of news from the Warren Rifles Chapter of the UDC. The most significant points to mention here are related also to education and memorials.
Related to remembrance: the December 1958 meeting of the Warren Rifles UDC mentioned the formation of the Sons of Confederate Veterans - it had "43 prominent business and professional men" as members and needed seven more to form an official chapter (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 76, No. 288, 8 December 1958, p.3). By January 1959, the SCV had 65 members, noted as "the largest chapter in the United States" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 77, No. 8, 10 January 1959, p.3). One of the key goals of the SCV is preservation of Confederate heritage, leaning on the key word "vindication" (see Week 15: The First Annual). According to Meriam-Webster, to vindicate means "to free from allegation or blame; to confirm, substantiate, justify; to protect from attack or encroachment, defend; to avenge." The SCV, which is at work even today in Shenandoah County, VA, was not charged with protecting or defending American heritage, but Confederate heritage. Pro-Confederate heritage groups completely ignore American soldiers that fought in the American Civil War and African Americans, for whom their ancestors fought to keep in bondage; and instead opt to privilege their own pro-Confederate ancestors' histories. In addition, the local paper shared a community celebration of the completion of a UDC Museum on Chester Street in Front Royal in 1959. It describes the occasion: "streets will be blocked, banners will be flown, and the days of the Confederacy will live again" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol 74, No 151, 27 June 1959, p.1).
In terms of education, in September 1958 (around the same time grading for the foundation of Shenandoah County's southern campus high school was started and about three months before that school was named SJHS), Warren County Public Schools was taken over by Virginia Governor Almond to prevent integration there. Their public schools were closed. The Northern Virginia Daily shares: "the UDC membership voted on turning their building over for school purposes several days ago" (Vol. 76, No. 229, 27 September 1958, p.1). The UDC museum was one of five buildings used to educate 780 white students in 1959: "another block and you come to the UDC building. Exhibits have been stored away to make room for the youngsters, but still adorning the walls are pictures of Lee, Jackson, Davis, Mosby" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 77, No. 44, 21 February 1959:3). And it continued to be used as a private school for white students the following school year, while African American students entered Warren County Public Schools. "For the second time in less than a year, a mass meeting of Warren County citizens voted last night for the establishment of a private, segregated high school" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 74, No. 191, 14 August 1959:1). The UDC Museum is one of the buildings mentioned for use as a private white school.
In 1960, essays written by white students attending a new private school for Caucasian children in Warren County focused on "Why I Should Support John S Mosby Academy." The first prize 11th grader wrote: "In September 1958 the Warren County High School was closed by State laws to avoid enforced integration. This was indeed a calamity. But did education stop? It did not. Our parents and other interested citizens got busy and established a private school. Classes were held in church educational buildings, in the Youth Center, and in the new Confederate Museum... In the fall of September 1959 the Warren County High School once again opened its doors INTEGRATED! Again a group of interested parents and friends worked to provide a private school for students who did not wish to attend an integrated high school, but this time under the most difficult conditions. In less than three weeks the citizens rented an attractive building, hired teachers, and raised the money needed to run a school... Thus was born the John Singleton Mosby Academy" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 75, No. 50, 29 February 1960, p.3). Mosby was a Confederate colonel. The essay continues: "There can be no hope that things will ever again be the same as they were. Integration of the races seems to be here to stay. Those of us who oppose this way of life have no choice but to set up our own school. We do not want our community to be the kind of community that has grown up in many of the larger cities that have accepted integration with the resulting rise in crime, run down neighborhoods, lowered educational standards, hoodlumism, if there is such a word, and lowering of standards of behavior. We believe that if we establish an efficient school where students come because they believe in high standards of achievement, in accepting responsibilities and in the principle of freedom of choice, we can keep our community from being lowered to the level many larger cities have reached and raise it high above the rest."
The winning essay by the 10th grade student states: "There are many worthwhile reasons why I should give my support. One of the main ones is that of what the Academy stands for. This school was established so those who wished to maintain a segregated school could do so... I think it was wonderful when the people of Front Royal took a stand on what they believed was right and helped bring about this school... By supporting John S. Mosby Academy we can all look back into history someday and can proudly say we had a part in making one of the most successful private schools in the South. Through our efforts we will set an example for the rest of the American people. We will have shown them that we stood up for what we thought was right by supporting John S. Mosby Academy" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 75, No. 50, 29 February 1960, p.3). The ninth grade winning essay: "It has splendid teachers, a few of whom even came out of retirement to help us in our fight against integration. It stands for the right thing; the separation of the Negroes and the whites. These facts should make us even more determined to build a new school and fight integration. Even after we had built the Negroes a nice, modern elementary and high school combined, they followed Oliver Hill and forced us out of our high school. Why couldn't they have been satisfied to go to a nice, modern school? Everyone wondered. It just wasn't right. Just twenty-three Negroes followed Hill, and for the sake of those twenty-three we were out of school for six weeks.... I feel that it is everyone's duty in favor to segregation to support an all-white school. I also feel it my duty as a student and a person in favor of segregation to support the private school... I am deeply grateful to everyone who has made it possible for me to attend a school of my choice" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 75, No. 50, 29 February 1960, p.3).
And the 8th grade winning essay: "In my opinion the John S. Mosby Academy and any private school for that matter, is a blow against integration. The mixing of white and Negro is almost certain to lower the moral of the whites. The desegregation decision of Mr. Warren is thought to be nothing but out and out treason... It has been proven that Mr. Warren's 'Desegregation Decision' aids and abets the plans the Communist Conspiracy to create tension between Negroes and Whites, to transform the South into a Black Soviet Republic, and to legalize and encourage intermarriage between negroes and whites, and thus mongelize the American White Race" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 75, No. 50, 29 February 1960, p.3). Mosby was open for an entire decade, not closing its doors until 1969. In 1960, Warren County Public Schools operated two high schools: "Criser Road School with slightly over 100 pupils for negro students, and Warren County High School, with about 415 students, which operated for the first time on an integrated basis. In addition to those students, about 436 are attending the private John S. Mosby Academy, and approximately 100 others are attending public schools in other localities" (Northern Virginia Daily, Vol. 75, No. 82, 6 April 1960, p.8).
Based on these essays and the myriad activities of the UDC, the local chapters of this organization were successful in their educational mission for Shenandoah Valley youth in the first 63 years of the 20th century. In the 21st century, what message do we want to send to our youth today? What community identity do we want to claim? Forcing Confederate heritage and inciting community identity solely around perspectives of Confederate ancestors is not helpful. In the decades to come, on what side of history do we want our names remembered? What do we need to do to truly live out an example that is "reunited in one great American brotherhood, one citizenship, ... in the pursuits of peace and the promotion of the welfare of our reunited country" (Our Church Paper, Vol. 23, No. 20, 15 May 1895, published in New Market, Va, p.4)? And in Shenandoah County, Va, how does that include African Americans; Indigenous, who are the true native populace; and other minority groups that are living here today?
Consolidating schools for economical reasons, standardized education, and more, as described in a 2006/07 Brookings Papers on Education Policy article "School Consolidation and Inequality" by Christopher Berry, was a hot topic in 1930 that continued for the next forty years across Virginia. With requests for school building improvements rising in the magisterial districts, state funds increasing for public education, and several United States grants given for "white school construction projects" (Shenandoah County School Board Minutes, 16 September 1938), Shenandoah County Public Schools began consolidating its one-room schoolhouses in the 1930s, as well as working as a county-wide board, rather than separate district-based entities. The first actual mention of the Shenandoah County School Board is in the January 13, 1937 issue of the Northern Virginia Daily. An article therein states: "The Shenandoah County School Board met yesterday in ... Woodstock when a number of routine business matters were disposed of and current bills approved. No issues of any great importance came before the board yesterday, the meeting being confined chiefly to the above matters and the reading and discussion of various reports. The principals of the high schools in Shenandoah County will go to Charlottesville Thursday to attend a Study Council which will be in progress there on January 14-15-16" (Northern Virginia Daily, Volume 54, Number 318, 13 January 1937 p7).
What isn't stated in this newspaper article is something that had become a white elephant in our county: of all the high schools in Shenandoah County at the time, not one of them served African Americans or other minority groups. Shenandoah County Library's Shenandoah Stories covers information pertaining to the building used until 1937 for the Woodstock Colored School, which began in 1865 when the Freedman's Bureau helped fund such facilities for recently freed African Americans. But in fact, as mentioned earlier (see Week 42: Education Without Heart), only four primary schools served African Americans in Shenandoah County during the early part of the 20th century and two of them had been located in the southern part of the county, from which Mountain View High School, North Fork Middle School, and Honey Run Elementary School now draw their current student population.
If an African American or Hispanic student in the 1930s was interested in continuing his or her education beyond 7th grade, she or he would have to do so outside the county - an action that mimicked the expectations of Shenandoah County during pre-Civil War times when state legislature required any African American freed from slavery to leave Virginia within a year or risk re-enslavement (see Week 18: The Cost of Freedom in 1840). More specifically, our county school board sent our African American high school students to Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth, which became a public, boarding high school for regional African American students in 1938, or to Douglas School (in operation from 1927 until 1966) in Winchester, Virginia; and at one point required parents to cover any costs excessive to what the board was willing to pay (Shenandoah County School Board Minutes, 2 December 1941 and 2 October 1944). African Americans in the southern portion of Shenandoah County later attended the Lucy F. Simms School, which was built in 1938-1939, served the African American communities in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and continued the tradition of segregation that had been adopted all across the South and impacted not only where students were taught, but also encouraged a segregated workforce, as well.
During the 1930s through 1960s, members of the African American community were often hired to drive African American students to school, according to School Board minutes. Since Interstate 81 was not completed until the 1960s, travel to Harrisonburg from Mt Jackson would have been 54 miles round trip and from Woodstock to Winchester, 64 miles. Taking into account speed maximums different from current standards, as well as other driving variables, such a commitment would have equated to approximately 2-3 hours of travel time via Route 11 each day. Caucasian students, on the other hand, attended schools within their local communities or were able to ride a public school bus; and, as we shall see in the coming weeks, received schoolhouses built from new materials, new textbooks, and much more - through board funding without requesting Caucasian parents to pay part of the fees.
These aspects of educational life for African American students, who were as native to Shenandoah County, Virginia, as their Caucasian counterparts, are made evident through the following Shenandoah County School Board Minutes:
- "Woodstock colored school petitioned by ME Zion colored church to tear down the old colored school building and use the lumber to construct a new building" (11 June 1937)
- "Execute deed to Town of Woodstock for the alley way west of Woodstock colored school house" (23 July 1937)
- "No action taken on colored children in New Market bused outside of area" (14 September 1937)
- "Cost for Woodstock colored school was $943.39" (1 March 1938)
- "Small enrollment at Mt Jackson colored school tabled" (8 November 1938)
- "Colored school in Mt. Jackson is to be continued for coming session and $66 allowed to teacher to transport children from New Market to Mt Jackson (the board pays 1/2 of insurance policy covering liability to children)" (8 August 1939)
- "Motion that matter of paying tuition of colored children be undecided until we can get in touch with Dr. Hall to see what action can be taken" (28 August 1939)
- "Board matches $20 raised by colored school at Strasburg for dental work" (6 February 1940)
- "Motion to have Rev. John Langford to be employed to transport colored pupils from Mt. Jackson and New Market to Woodstock colored school and transport of colored high school students" (22 August 1941)
- Board requests superintendent to "express the appreciation of the Shenandoah County School Board to the Regional Board of Control of the Regional High School at Manassas, Virginia for their invitation to enroll colored pupils on a similar basis as those from Warren and Rappahannack counties, and state that we are considering the possibility of educating from 9 to 12 of our negroes in their school next year" (2 December 1941)
- "Turner Mitchell transports colored high school students from Strasburg to Winchester / Marion McPherson transports colored children from New Market and Mt. Jackson to Woodstock" (8 September 1942)
- "Marion McPherson's contract canceled, Theodore Tolliver Jr. selected" (6 October 1942)
- "Greyhound bus schedule chosen for transportation from New Market and Mt Jackson to Woodstock Colored School / Theodore Tolliver's contract canceled" (1 December 1942)
- "Greyhound continued to be used for transportation needs of colored students" (6 October 1943)
- "Board notes they pay $158/pupil for African American students attending school in Manassas and instructs superintendent to let parents of three colored students in Strasburg know they are no longer willing to pay for them to attend Winchester high school any longer due to excessive cost. Any additional costs will be defrayed by the parents" (2 October 1944)
- "Six colored pupils in Strasburg are to be sent to Winchester colored high school (board pays tuition and transport) / Rev. Clarence Davis transports students at $40/month" (10 September 1945)
- "Tuition for colored children in Manassas be paid by board" (4 November 1946)
- "Colored children request to ride school buses is tabled" (1 December 1947)
- "Salary of colored bus driver, Robert Spinner, increased from $40 to $50/month" (5 December 1947)
- "GE Kingan to be paid $4 per day to drive colored children from New Market to Woodstock" (6 February 1950)
- Motion regarding the tuition of Shenandoah County colored students enrolled at Winchester City Schools - for superintendent "to work out some agreement on the expenses of these children" (3 November 1952)
- Board suggests for the superintendent "to write letters to the parents of the colored children who wish to attend school in Harrisonburg" (8 September 1958)
- "Decided to do a survey to study the colored school situation and assess creating a consolidated colored school. The Board is obtaining a colored teacher for Strasburg colored elementary school and taking New Market colored students to Harrisonburg" (9 November 1959)
- "Discussed consolidating Sunset and Creekside (colored schools) in Maurertown" (19 December 1959)
- "No motion secured for consolidating colored schools, but opted for another study" (8 February 1960)
- "Rev. James B. McKay (negro minister of Woodstock) appeared to ascertain progress on the new school for colored students" (14 March 1961)
- "Committee appointed to find suitable sites for negro schools at Woodstock and Strasburg" (10 April 1961)
- "Hannum tract of land suggested in Strasburg for negro elementary school" (7 July 1961)
- "Tract of land adjoining Creekside (in Woodstock) suggested for negro elementary school" (14 August 1961)
- "Made a motion to condemn school sites for negro pupils at both Strasburg and Woodstock" (11 December 1961)
- "Advised Board of Supervisors to approve the condemnation of negro school sites" (20 December 1961)
- "Board of Supervisors approved resolution to condemn negro school sites. Resolution requesting to buy the Sunset School site and to apply to State School Construction Authority for a $50,000 loan" (14 May 1962)
- Board recommends that "as in former years, buses be provided to transport negro students to high schools in Harrisonburg and Winchester" (13 August 1962)
- "Bus #27 picks up 8 negro students at Middletown and Stephens City and transports them to Winchester high school at $15/student" (11 March 1963)
The minutes reveal that decisions surrounding education for African Americans, especially as it pertained to spending funds for African American schools or for related African American student or African American teacher expenses, were often done partially, with a limited maximum amount of expenditures that was less than those for Caucasian students or Caucasian teachers, or were continually deferred by committee studies and noncommittal stallings as if they were hoping the African American community would leave the county so that they would no longer need to consider such decisions.
And yet, Shenandoah County had a clear interest in literacy education for its Caucasian illiterate adults. An interesting article in the Strasburg News holds the following bolded headline, "Friends of Adult Persons Who Cannot Read or Write Asked to Communicate with Supt. Office," and shares the illiteracy rates in 1930 for Virginia counties. Shenandoah County, considered to be part of the Valley region, is noted as having 525 "Illiterate Native White" persons out of the region's 13,940 people labeled as "illiterate native white" and which the paper indicates as a "3.3 percentage." In reality, it is actually 3.8 percent - a number tied with Frederick and Roanoke (Strasburg News, Volume 49, Number 41, 14 October 1931, p.1). Not realizing the error, the editors state: "These figures indicate Shenandoah as the lowest in the Valley group of counties. This is cause for a reasonable feeling of pride in Shenandoah white only but one must consider that Shenandoah has very few negroes and only a very small number of illiterate among these;" and they continue by giving "the average for negroes in the State in 1930 (as) 7.4%," until conceding that "it has been difficult to get the names of the 525 illiterates of Shenandoah County. If illiterates who desire instruction will give us their names and addresses we shall be able to make up a list for the county. If we can get enough of these persons to one central point in the community we can organize a class. Several of the teachers have already offered their services for this kind of work. The cost of textbooks is not very high" (Strasburg News, Volume 49, Number 41, 14 October 1931, p.1, 6). So, while the school board limited costs for African American students and pushed them out of the county for secondary school, according to school board minutes, the superintendent actively promoted unhampered and in-county education not only for Caucasian youth, but also for illiterate Caucasian adults throughout Shenandoah County.
Despite efforts and compulsory education laws that began in some form as early as 1870, not everyone in the community received an education. A 1939 article shares the following overview regarding Virginia's youth in relation to school attendance: "In spite of a high migration record and a declining birthrate, there are today 100,000 white children and 50,000 Negro children, 7 to 19 years of age, in Virginia who are not in any kind of a school. Teachers' salaries are notoriously low in our public schools, and school facilities and opportunities are substandard in many of our localities" (Northern Virginia Daily, Volume 57, Number 60, 11 March 1939 p 5). As was noticed in 1930, more school boards were consolidating to address the "meager physical facilities" issue (Strasburg News, Volume 48, Number 46, 14 November 1930, p4) and the state legislature was working to make sure funding was available for at least eight-month terms for children in public schools, with the hope of expanding to nine-months of education (Radford News Journal, Volume 8, Number 22, 19 December 1935, p3).
During this time of consolidation and conversation surrounding illiteracy and attendance, another court case brought attention to the 1896 "separate, but equal" clause of Plessy v. Ferguson (see Week 43: Where's the 'Common Sense Consideration'?), and related to professional education after secondary schools in Missouri for African Americans: Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada (1938). In 1935, Lloyd Gaines, an African American graduate from the traditionally African American Lincoln University, was denied admission to the University of Missouri's graduate school, because the institution did not have a counterpart graduate law school for African Americans. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the University either had to admit Gaines or provide him with comparable education within the state. Shenandoah County newspapers share: "At the present time, negroes desirous of pursuing professional studies are aided financially by the state in out-of-Virginia institutions, but the Supreme Court held in the Missouri case that this did not comply with the 'equal facilities' provision of education. Officials viewed as unlikely that negroes would be permitted to attend classes in such state supported schools as the University of Virginia. It was recalled that the state constitution specifies that white and negro education be segregated" (Northern Virginia Daily, Volume 56, Number 291, 14 December 1938, p1). The article continues with: "A member of the State Board of Education said the court ruling could well be applied to Virginia education 'right down the line.' Such an application of the ruling would affect elementary and secondary schools, salaries of negro teachers and physical properties in proportion to the number of negroes of school age as well as the college problem."
The country was grumbling for a larger conversation regarding public education for African Americans in the United States of America, and as we will see in the coming weeks, Virginia and even Shenandoah County communities and leaders were entering this conversation with massive resistance.
SENK is an artist and writer in the Shenandoah Valley. The blog, 52 Weeks, is an ethical contemplation on the importance of choosing public school names that are not divisive within a community. Each post is based on over eight years of research by the author. 52 Weeks is a compassionate appeal to community and school board members to not revert to the names of Confederate leaders for Shenandoah County, Va, public schools.
52 / Remembering & Moving On
51 / Integration & Teachers
50 / In Our Own Community
49 / S J H S
48 / Not One Positive Step
47 / Maintaining Public Peace
46 / Brown v. Board
45 / Rebuilding a Pro-Confederate South
44 / An Out-of-area Education
43 / Where's the 'Common Sense Consideration'?
42 / Education Without Heart
41 / Self-Preservation
40 / Free Public Schools
39 / The Mask of Defiance
38 / The Golden Door of Freedom
37 / Prejudicial to our Race
36 / Are We Compassionate?
35 / Community
34 / Need for Radical Change
33 / Bitter Prejudice
32 / Fear of 'Negro Equality'
31 / Rachel, Lashed to Death
30 / The Whim of the Court: A Look at Jacob, Stacy, Lett; March & Peter; Jeffrey & Peter
29 / Ben, Tom, Ned, Clary, & two men from the furnace
28 / The Loss of Fortune
27 / James Scott, A Free Man
26 / The Unremembered, The Unheard
25 / The American Cause
24 / Tithables for the County & Parish
23 / Satisfactory Proof of Being Free
22 / Building Community Takes Trust
21 / Jacob's Case
20 / Whose Control?
19 / Racial Classifications
18 / The Cost of Freedom in 1840
17 / Sale of Children
16 / Bequeathal of Future Increase
15 / The First Annual
14 / From a Descendant of a CSA Soldier
13 / True Americanism
12 / Slavery. A Hot Topic.
11 / Real Character
10 / Real Apologies
9 / Freedom from Fear
8 / 250 Years
7 / The Courage of Christ
6 / Whose Narratives?
5 / The 13th Amendment
4 / Symbolic Act of Justice
3 / Giving Thanks
2 / Confederate Congress
1 / Veteran's Day