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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