A lost history, recovered: Faded records tell the story of school segregation in Virginia

Historians in the News
tags: segregation, Virginia, archival records


"Dear Mr. Emerick,” the 28-year-old teacher wrote, “please send some coal up right away. All we have left is dirt and that doesn’t half burn.”

Half a century later, Smith’s words have emerged through the discovery of more than 10,000 pages of records capturing the history of Loudoun County’s all-black, rural schoolhouses between the end of the Civil War and desegregation in the 1970s. The records, left to molder for decades in an abandoned building, include report cards, curriculums, class rosters, health and insurance records, photographs and faded maps.

Since 2016, an all-volunteer team of Loudoun residents, historians and high school students has sifted through the musty, dusty pages to distill an almost-lost history. The documents — unearthed by school officials acting on a tip — are probably the largest collection of black school records found anywhere in the nation, historians say.

Typically, as integration approached, these kinds of papers disappeared: buried, burned or stuffed in out-of-the-way places, never to be recovered, said Vanessa Siddle Walker, an Emory University professor and expert on segregated education.

Read entire article at Washington Post

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