Why Were the 28 Plaintiffs Left Behind By Arlington County Public Schools?

The John M. Langston Citizens Association will celebrate the 85th Anniversary of the organization with a series of events during the weekend of May 13th through 15th.

The Opening Program on Friday, May 13th at the Langston-Brown Community Center will feature recognition of the 28 plaintiffs from the Thompson v. Arlington School Board 1958 court case who were denied entrance to white schools, when the Stratford Four (Ronald Deskins, Michael Jones, Lance Newman, and Gloria Thompson) were admitted on February 2, 1959.

THE WHY

These students were allowed to enter the white schools in September 1959, so many people today may wonder, ‘What’s the big deal, and why are they being recognized 63 years later?” Well, it is a big deal because the Arlington County School Board not only denied them the right to equal education for the spring 1959 semester, BUT they also did everything in their power to embarrass and demean the students.

I’ve always wondered when the Arlington Public Schools would do the right thing and finally recognize these brave students and their families. I took the opportunity to ask Dr. Duran, Arlington School Superintendent about this issue about a year ago. I then began to work with his Chief of Staff, Brian Stockton, who was able to gain approval for Arlington Public Schools and the School Board to work with the John M. Langston Citizens Association to finally honor them during our opening event.

THE FACTS

The Federal court ruling in 1956 approved desegregation in Arlington, but the School Board fought that ruling, and it was never enforced. Five of the plaintiffs from that case along with 27 additional students became the plaintiffs in the 1958 Thompson v Arlington School Board case. The image below is a list of the plaintiffs from my book, My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood, in the chapter titled The Stratford Four. I secured this list during research at the Library of Virginia.

Two of these plaintiffs dropped out during the process, Deloris Crutchfield and George Crutchfield.

The Arlington School Board had the students evaluated by Cyril Mill, a psychologist for the Virginia Department of Mental Hygiene. He recommended rejecting 12 of the students for psychological reasons or an inability to adjust. The School Board stated some students had academic deficiencies, but it was so blatantly racist that in one case, the NAACP lawyers pointed out that the “student was a year ahead of his grade according to the results of the California Achievement Tests in his school file.” There were five reasons for rejection by the School Board: Improper attendance areas, overcrowding at Washington-Lee High School, academic deficiency, psychological problems, and inability to adapt to a new situation.

Take a look at this Washington Post archive article describing “Arlington Board Defends Negro Rejections.”

CONTINUED DENIALS

Now, bear in mind that the Arlington School Board had already delayed the start of the school year because of their fear that Massive Resistance, the strategy for continuing segregation in public schools, would fall with yet another federal ruling to desegregate. The Washington Post documented that on September 3, 1958, in an article titled, Judge Bryan Hears Placement Body and Local Board.

THE SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS

Who were the five members of the Arlington School Board in 1958? Right-wing conservative, Robert A. Peck, Segregationist Mrs. Helen S. Lane, the longest serving member, Barnard Joy, then James Stockard, a native Texan and dedicated liberal, and finally L. Lee Beam, a conservative, but one who decided not to join either of the factions and “study each problem and vote by conviction.” See what the Washington Post reported on August 25, 1958 in the article titled, “Desegregation Spotlights Arlington School Board.”

JUDGE BRYAN’S ORDER

But as we all know, the School Board was unsuccessful in stopping desegregation. But Judge Bryan only allowed the four students to enter white schools in February. Here is a Washington Post article from September 18, 1958 with the highlights of his ruling, “Text of Bryan’s Arlington Desegregation Order.

YET THEY FOUGHT ON

The School Board wasn’t finished fighting yet. They sued to delay the desegregation until the Fall of 1959 for the four who were approved by the Court. Of course, Judge Bryan denied the request, which the Arlington School Board continued to appeal until finally, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren denied the request. The Bryan denial is documented in another Washington Post article on January 29, 1959, titled, “Delay Denied on Arlington Negro Pupils.”

THE STUDENTS FOUGHT BACK AND THEY WON!

Everyone knows about Arlington County being the first in Virginia to desegregate public schools. Every February we recognize the four students who bravely entered Stratford. But what about the other plaintiffs left behind?

Well, 22 of the students and their families decided to fight on. C’mon now, you didn’t think that Arlington let those students enroll in September 1959 because it was the right thing to do, did you???

The NAACP brought yet another case (were you aware that the NAACP filed more lawsuits in the Commonwealth of Virginia to desegregate schools than any other state in the union?!) The Washington Post describes the next chapter of the fight to desegregate in Arlington in an article titled, “NAACP Seeks Arlington Plan to Desegregate.”

Pic Washington Post Magazine, Feb 2, 2002. (Pic sent courtesy of Gloria Rowe Little)

Please join us as we recognize and honor these courageous former students at the Opening Program on Friday, May 13th at 6 PM (program begins at 6:30 PM) at the Langston-Brown Community Center, 2121 N. Culpeper St, Arlington, VA 22207

We hope to see you there!

Iconic Arlington Educator: Mrs. Elizabeth Snyder Hill

Principal and Teacher at Langston School from 1922-1961

Mrs. Elizabeth Snyder Hill was an icon as a teacher at Langston. She began teaching on Halls Hill at the Sumner School in 1922, three years before the Langston School building opened. On Friday, May 19, 1961, she was honored by the Halls Hill community for her 39 years of dedicated service. This week I am going to share the program from that event, which is just one of the many items my mom, Idabel G. Jones saved from events in the Halls Hill community over the years.

The program cover.

You can see that Mr. James H. Brown was president of the Langston Elementary School Parent Teacher Association and my mom’s best friend, Mrs. Patience Spriggs (there is a typo on the cover) was the chairman of the event.

Mrs. Hill’s biography.

Mrs. Hill was a teacher for hundreds of Halls Hill children during her career, including both my parents and many of my siblings. And of course, Mrs. Hill was a graduate of an HBCU (Historically Black College and University), Howard University. She also received a Master’s Degree from New York University. The teachers at the segregated schools were excellent, and Mrs. Hill was one of the staff that set the standard, according to all the stories I have heard. She also was quite firm in the manner in which she managed her classes, and the school during the years she was principal.

Businesses that contributed toward the event as advertisers.

Mrs. Faggins and the members of the Crescent Club were all Halls Hill residents. You can see that Prestons’ Pharmacy was a supporter of Halls Hill almost 60 years ago. This page and the ones that follow show the community supporters and organizations that contributed toward the event and were obviously a big part of the Halls Hill community.

More advertiser/business patrons.

This page has the local eye doctor and Mr. Vance Green’s barber shop, which still stands, today it’s where Rick’s Tattoo Shop is located. Mr. Green lived on North 19th Road. The other advertiser is Rev. James E. Browne, Sr. who was an electrician, as well as the assistant pastor at Mount Salvation Baptist Church. Rev. Browne and his family lived next to Langston School on Culpeper street.

The program.

The people involved in the program are not well known from a community perspective except for Mr. James H. Brown speaking for the PTA. This Mr. James Brown, without the “e” lived with his family on 22nd street. And Mr. Alfred Clark, the captain of Fire Station 8 was also the president of the John M. Langston Citizens Association at that time.

The Langston School staff and the people responsible for the program.

OK, lots of familiar names here. There are some typos, like Mr. Gravitt, not Granitt. But I remember almost every person listed on this page. And one of them is my mom, Idabel Jones, the assistant dietician, working under Rev. Browne’s wife, Mrs. Hazel Browne. And rounding out the kitchen staff is Mrs. Eunice Carter. Rev. Browne took a pic of them after the finished the lunch shift one day outside the multipurpose room door of the school.

My mom, Mrs. Idabel G. Jones, Mrs. Eunice Carter, and Mrs. Hazel Browne. See Fire Station 8 in the background.
Another ad page in the program.

I don’t know who the “Two Physicians,” are but I am assuming it’s Drs. Harold Johnson and Oscar Ellison, Jr., the two Black doctors serving the Halls Hill and Falls Church areas. The Modern Beauty-Barber Shop was familiar to my family because Mrs. Adele Williams and her family were close friends of our family.

Chinn Funeral Home purchased a full page ad.
Another page of ads in the program.

The Citizens Association and the Mount Salvation Baptist Church ads along with a beauty salon purchased ads for this important community event.

Calloway’s full page ad was the final page of the program.

Mrs. Hill was much loved by the Halls Hill community. I know my mom was truly touched by her influence as she saved this program in almost perfect condition since 1961 until her death in 2017. We discovered the program in her papers and I am so happy to share it with all of you today. I know there are many people who read the blog who may remember her.

My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood

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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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The Annual Pink Tea

Mount Salvation Ladies Auxiliary Pink Tea

The Ladies Auxiliary to the Trustee Board’s Annual Pink Tea

Let’s go back in history a bit in the Black Church in America. Back in the day. Especially in the South. Before women preachers in the pulpit. Before women were appointed to the Trustee Board. Remember back when there was the Ladies Auxiliary to the Trustee Board?

Well, if you lived on Halls Hill in the 1950’s and 60’s the Ladies Auxiliary at Mount Salvation Baptist Church was that organization. And you may not have remembered the group, but you never forgot their annual fundraiser, The Pink Tea!

Every year in the spring in the Langston Elementary School Multipurpose Room, the ladies of the Mount Salvation Baptist Church Ladies Auxiliary to the Trustee Board would show off and show out! They beautifully decorated the room, and presented tables full of delectable finger foods and appetizers to enjoy. The auxiliary members formed teams or groups to plan their menus and work to make their table the best of the event.

This is me, right behind Rev. James E. Browne (back to camera), in the serving line at a Pink Tea event.

I absolutely LOVED the Pink tea. I looked forward to the event every year. My mom, Idabel Jones teamed with her two best friends, Patience Spriggs and Rosa Hyson (known as our Aunts Pat and RoRo) to make their best recipes every year. Rev. James Browne, was like an unofficial judge, and all the kids would see what he had on his plate because all the ladies wanted him to taste their food. At least that’s the way I remember it.

It wasn’t just a “church event.” It was a neighborhood event. It didn’t matter what church you attended, or if you even went to church. Folks attended and supported because that’s was the way of our community.

A beautifully decorated table at the Pink Tea back in the mid-1960’s.

As I described in the book,

“The churches on Halls Hill thrived in the 1960s. Mount Salvation was under the longtime pastoral leadership of Rev. Richardson, and the sanctuary was packed every Sunday. New ideas and events to raise money and keep the church flourishing were implemented by men, women, and the youth leadership. One of the women’s events was an annual pink tea. Groups of women would partner and develop a “table menu,” with each woman cooking a “tea-worthy” delicacy for the afternoon. It was held in the multi- purpose room of Langston. My mom was involved, along with all the other women of the church. The room was decorated beauti- fully, with multiple shades of pink with cream or white. Guests used cocktail plates to taste the flavors offered on each table.

Although there wasn’t an official winner determined, the women who prepared the best-tasting dishes were easy to spot, as their food was on everyone’s plates!”

My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood
Wilma at the Pink Tea. Yes, that’s me. I remember the dress!

I don’t think I ever missed a year at the Pink Tea when we were church members there. Those events are wonderful memories from my Halls Hill childhood.

Do you have memories of the Mount Salvation Baptist Church Ladies Auxiliary to the Trustee Board’s Annual Pink Tea?

Interview: Mrs. Mary Scales Koblitz

Wilma Jones interviews Mrs. Mary Scales Koblitz, Nov 2018

Mrs. Mary Scales Koblitz, Halls Hill Elder

I had the honor and pleasure to interview Mrs. Mary Scales Koblitz, a Halls Hill elder who lived on two locations on the ‘Hill prior to moving to South Arlington when her kids were growing up.

She speaks about her memories of Langston Elementary School, lifelong friendships and more. Listen to the interview and comment with her feedback.

More interviews to come. Thanks for being a HallsHill.com visitor!

Halls Hill: A Poem by Carolyn June-Jackson

Hall’s Hill

Bordered by George Mason, Glebe Road, and Lee Highway
A closely knit community where Black folks lived and played
From Culpeper to Emerson; numbered streets in between
Proud African-Americans tied to no one’s apron strings

A beautiful oasis surrounded by a Jim Crow County
A community where Black folks owned their property
Mt. Salvation Baptist, Highview Park, and Calloway
Three spiritual havens where we often went to pray

A neighborhood surrounded by the country club’s elite
Yet, Black folks lived a simpler life without outside conceit
A wall divided neighborhoods experiencing neglect
The county looked the other way, showing no respect

Many businesses established by our own entrepreneurs
May not have been wealthy but neither were they poor
Federal, state, and local workers lived on every street
Hicks and Allen’s general stores, we had our own elite

Our Citizens Association was very much concerned
Held monthly meetings and kept residents informed
Joined Martin Luther King in the cause for civil rights
Marched for integration, put an end to racial fights

Langston Elementary is where we earned good grades
Our dedicated teachers ensured that rules were obeyed
When the schools integrated, our parents did not tolerate
Their children at white schools being treated second-rate

Cameron playground where scuffles would break out
Danced to the latest tunes were all teens thought about
Hanging on the corner under dimly lit street lights
Played “Simon Says” during those hot summer nights

Dressed up in the latest fashions was always the rage
House parties attended by those under drinking age
Frequented Suburban Night or Goolby’s Chocolate City
Building razed so long ago by county board committee

The traditional Turkey Bowl held on Thanksgiving Day
Young men and old-timers like joining in the fray
An annual reunion where we love to meet and greet
Rekindling old memories that are always bittersweet

Many homes are torn down or property’s been sold
Young and old have passed away; parents growing old
Hall’s Hill is in transition and will never look the same
Now been overtaken by those with strange surnames

We now sign up on Facebook, just to keep in touch
Talk about the good days and how they meant so much
No matter where we live, no matter what time zone
We’re proud of our village, Hall’s Hill is still our home

©Carolyn June, August 1, 2013