Arlington High School Choices in 1957

Separate and So Unequal

Arlington High School Choices in 1957 – audio recording

Arlington in 2020 is a progressive community. I have frequent conversations about how far we have come as a society since the days of Jim Crow, Massive Resistance, and the inception of institutional racism. But what I have discovered is that many people don’t know the truth. The details. The day-to-day choices and challenges Black people dealt with every day.

In this season of our children returning to school, I went back to review the choices Arlington high school students had in the fall of 1957. The U.S Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that public schools should be desegregated, but the County and Commonwealth were engaged in lengthy, costly, and ultimately, unsuccessful efforts to continue the segregation of Black and white schoolchildren. Virginia intended to sustain separate, but equal schools, despite the federal government’s decision. But just a quick review of the course offerings at Washington-Lee versus Hoffman-Boston high schools made it clear how unequal the choices were for Black students. See below for the course listings for both schools from the archives of the Library of Virginia.

COURSES OFFERED AT WASHINGTON-LEE HIGH SCHOOL 
1957-58 SCHOOL YEAR


ART
Applied Design I
Applied Design II
General Art I
General Art II
General Art III

BUSINESS
Bookkeeping I
Bookkeeping II
Commercial Law
Shorthand I
Shorthand II
Typing I
Typing II
Business Machines
Commercial Arithmetic 
Vocational Office Training

DISTRIBUTIVE EDUCATION 

ENGLISH
English II
English III
English IV
Advanced Composition 
Speech
Drama
Journalism 

HEALTH & PHYSICAL EDUCATION 
Health and PE II
Health and PE III
Driver Training

HOME ECONOMICS
Home Ec. I
Home Ec. II
Home Ec. III
Home Ec. Special
Foods
Clothing


INDUSTRIAL ARTS
Electric Fundamentals 
Radio Theory and Repairs II
TV & Repairs
Auto Mechanics 
Transportation Shop
General Metals
Mechanic Drawing I
Mechanical Drawing II & III
Advanced Machine Woodworking
General Cabinet & Graphic Arts
Graphic Arts

LANGUAGE
Latin I
Latin II
Latin III & IV Combined 
French I
French II
French III & IV Separated
German I
German II
Spanish I
Spanish II
Spanish III & IV Combined 

MATHEMATICS 
General Math
Vocational Math
Algebra I
Algebra II
Plane Geometry 
Accelerated Algebra- Solid Geometry 
Solid Geometry- Trigonometry 
Trigonometry- College Algebra

MUSIC
Choir
Madrigals 
Mixed Chorus
Girls’ Chorus
Music Appreciation 
Music Theory 
Orchestra 
Band Workshop
Band

SCIENCE
Biology
Physics
Chemistry
 
SOCIAL STUDIES
Virginia & U.S. History
Virginia & U.S. Government
Psychology 
World History 
World Geography 
Economics

COURSES OFFERED AT HOFFMAN-BOSTON HIGH SCHOOL
1957-58 SCHOOL YEAR


ART
Basic Art I
Basic Art II

BUSINESS
Commercial Arithmetic 
Typing I
Typing II
Shorthand I
Commercial Practice & Business Machines

ENGLISH
English II
English III
English IV

FOREIGN LANGUAGES 
French I
French II

Health & Physical Education 

HOMEMAKING EDUCATION 
Homemaking I
Homemaking II
Homemaking III

INDUSTRIAL ARTS
General Cabinet Making & Graphic Arts
Industrial Arts Lab for Girls
Mechanical Drawing I
Transportation Auto Mechanics
Woodworking Laboratory 

MUSIC
Choral Music
Girls’ Choir
Mixed Chorus

INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC
Concert Band
Orchestra

SCIENCE
Biology
Chemistry 

SOCIAL STUDIES 
World History
U.S. & Virginia History

SPEECH
General SpeechTherapy in Speech is available

I read during my research that the only reason Hoffman-Boston offered any Foreign Language at this time was because one of the English teachers had the ability to teach both languages, so the course was made available to the students.

The fact that the government would continue to try to pursue in federal court that this treatment of Black students was fair just shows the extent of institutional racism. It’s very clear from these lists that Black students were not offered the same educational opportunities as white students.

Unfortunately, there are still unequal circumstances existing in Arlington County Public Schools. There are schools in North Arlington becoming even more segregated with the latest school boundary changes. A critical program for children with IEPs is offered at some Arlington elementary schools but not at Drew Elementary School, a school that serves a large contingent of Black and Brown children and has been consistently disenfranchised by the Arlington Public School leadership and the School Board for decades. We have much more work to do to achieve equity among students in our public schools.

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This Week in Halls Hill History: The Origin of Langston School

Audio: The Origin of Langston School

In 1924 children in the segregated Halls Hill neighborhood of Arlington County attended the Sumner School on north Culpeper street. It was a one-story frame building with two classrooms and one office. It was severely overcrowded and chronically underfunded. I was unable to determine when the Sumner School opened but in 1913 the principal was Mr. L.C Baltimore, and the two teachers were Mrs. E. B. Holmes and Miss B.V. Thomas.

It was well known that segregated schools in Virginia and the other former Confederate states did not provide a decent education for Black students. This was true in Arlington, where Black schools received only hand-me-down books and supplies from white schools. The facilities were woefully undersized. Residents of Halls Hill had requested a new school building from the County government for years before 1920 with no progress.

A collaboration between Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald created the project to build “Rosenwald Schools,” to educate Black students to attempt to allay the chronic underfunding of schools in the Southern states. Booker T. Washington was an educator and philanthropist, and the founder of the Tuskegee Institute. Julius Rosenwald was a clothier who became a part-owner and president of Sears, Roebuck, and Company. Their collaboration required both the Black community and the white local government to contribute to funding the school construction. The local school board was required to operate and maintain the schools. Almost 5,000 schools were built in the former Confederate states and Maryland, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Missouri. These schools educated almost one-third of black students in the country.

As noted in Wikipedia, “The school building program was one of the largest programs administered by the Rosenwald Fund. Using state-of-the-art architectural plans designed by professors at Tuskegee Institute, the fund spent more than four million dollars to build 4,977 schools, 217 teacher homes, and 163 shop buildings in 883 counties in 15 states, from Maryland to Texas. The Rosenwald Fund was based on a system of matching grants, requiring white school boards to commit to maintenance and black communities to aid in construction.”

The Halls Hill community took advantage of the collaboration and the Rosenwald Fund opportunity. They raised $500 to contribute toward the construction of an elementary school. The project was approved for funding after the Arlington County School Board agreed to contribute toward the construction of the building. The local school board consented to operate and maintain the facility. The Washington Post archives screenshots below report that 96 years ago this week, on Friday, August 15, 1924, the Arlington County school district opened bids for the construction of the building.

On Sunday, November 8, 1925, only 451 days later, the school was dedicated and subsequently opened to the community’s children. My dad was one of the proud first graders to enter the building that first day. The Washington Post’s Arlington Bureau reported on the dedication as seen in the screenshot below.


Screenshot from the Washington Post Archives.

As described in an excerpt from my book, My Halls Hill Family, “More than 1,000 people attended the installation of the cornerstone for the new school, to be named John M. Langston School after the abolitionist, attorney, educator, activist, diplomat, and politician who was the first dean of Howard University Law School. The Grand Order of Odd Fellows Hopewell Lodge No. 1700 laid the stone. The lodge was a prominent membership organization on Halls Hill. Led by Moses Jackson, George H. Hyson, Shirley Snowden, Joseph Bolden, and Horace Shelton, in August 1888, they purchased a one-acre parcel of land on Halls Hill from Basil Hall to build their lodge’s hall.”

Black residents of Arlington neighborhoods worked hard to advocate for themselves and their communities, despite Jim Crow racism and discrimination in Virginia. The importance of Langston, (even though it’s been rebuilt), to the High View Park -Halls Hill community is based on the deep roots of the institution and it’s almost 100 years of history.

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Lee Highway Extended to Falls Church 95 Years Ago

New Year’s Day 1924 Brought Big News

Lee Highway is Extended from Halls Hill to Falls Church

I interviewed my dad in 2012 about life on Halls Hill as he remembered it as a young child. One of the things he explained was a big deal was the extension of Lee Highway from Halls Hill to Falls Church. Although he was only around 5 years old, looking back he remembered that for the first time people could drive cars to what was then a pretty rural area.

Prior to the highway extension most people traveled by horse to Falls Church, the Chesterbrook area of McLean, and the what is now the Tyson’s Corner area. When 40 residents of Falls Church endorsed the $40,000 bank loans (from two Georgetown banks) for the state to extend the road, it was proof of how important increasing access to the community was for it’s future growth and relative importance in the area. Arlington paid the interest on the loan.

Lee Highway had been extended from Cherrydale to Halls Hill many years before, making the allowing the neighborhood to thrive from a population growth and for entrepreneurs operating businesses on the Highway. The road was eighteen feet wide with one lane in either direction. It was extended 1.5 miles from Halls Hill to Falls Church. The work was completed on December 23, 1923 but the road was not opened for use until January 14, 1924.

It was during this period that Halls Hill and the route to the community via Lee HIghway became important for the safety of African Americans. Sometimes when traveling from DC to Halls Hill, African Americans were concerned because of the thriving Klu Klux Klan organization in Cherrydale. Many people experienced whites chasing them via car through the Cherrydale area, with taunts and threats of violence for passing through their community, especially after dark. But once the chase reached Culpeper Street, (the only way in or out of Halls Hill at the time) and Fire Station 8, they were safe.

Today in Hall Hills History: IN THE BEGINNING

IN THE BEGINNING

 

My Halls Hill Family Logo Black

Halls Hill was inhabited by former slaves and some free black people following the Civil War. Although black people who were slaves in captured Union territory became free after the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln in 1863.

Halls Hill was known as “Halls Plantation,” prior to the Civil War. Halls Hill was named for its location—a high hill in what had initially been Alexandria County—and the original property owner, Basil (also spelled Bazil, in some writings) Hall. Hall, a white man born in 1806, purchased 327 acres of land in 1850 for approximately $5,000 and started a plantation. Like most plantation owners in Virginia prior to the Civil War, Hall owned slaves to provide manual labor to work the land and animals.

The Halls were well known for the brutal way they managed their slaves. One of their female slaves, Jenny Farr, reached her breaking point with Hall’s wife, Elizabeth. She threw her in the hearth, murdering her. Jenny was convicted and hanged on February 26, 1858.

Hall remarried, and the plantation thrived until the South addressed the issue of slavery. Virginia had voted to secede from the union, and although Hall voted against secession, he did not fare well during the Civil War. His property was the site of many Confederate and Union troop skirmishes, and in August 1861, he fled his home. The Union Army used the site as a camp for the remainder of the war.

Following the war, Hall returned the plantation, which was staffed by laborers. Many of them were freed slaves who lived in rented shacks on the plantation. Hall continued his cruel treatment of the black people who worked on the plantation and was eventually charged with assault and battery and inhuman treatment of black people in his employ in 1866. In the post–Civil War era, the courts in Virginia would not hear any cases brought against white people if black people were the persons harmed. The federal government had established a military court with a provost marshal to adjudicate these cases. Despite sufficient evidence, Hall’s attorney convinced President Andrew Johnson to intercede in the matter. Johnson directed the military provost to drop the case and have it addressed in civil court. Of course, no court in Virginia would proceed with the case, so Hall was never punished.

Hall attempted to sell his land as one lot in 1872 but was unable to make a deal. He then began to sell smaller lots of property to white men. These men established farms using black laborers, who rented shacks on their respective farms. Black people inhabited Halls Hill, but it wasn’t until November 9, 1881, that black people were able to purchase land. Hall sold one acre of his land to Thornton Hyson and Charles W. Chinn for $108 and continued to sell his land to black people until he died in 1888. One other black man, a former slave named Moses Jackson, owned property on Halls Hill in the 1880s. Jackson’s owner gave him the land on what became part of Halls Hill upon his freedom.

There are many descendants of the Hyson, Chinn and Jackson families that lived in Halls Hill for generations. A few still reside there now.

Did you know the about these black men that purchased property to start building this neighborhood?