Project DAPS: The Desegregation of Arlington Public Schools

At 8:45 a.m. on February 2, 1959, four young students from the nearby Hall’s Hill neighborhood entered Stratford Junior High School in Arlington, Virginia. When they stepped into Stratford that day, they became the first students to desegregate a public school in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Many Arlingtonians know that theirs was the first county in Virginia to desegregate. It is a point of pride. But it’s not the whole story. This website uses archival holdings from the Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History to tell the complex story of segregation and desegregation in Arlington. 

It is a story that is sometimes difficult. One that offers few easy answers. It’s a story about how “desegregation” doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as “integration.” It’s the story of how a coalition of primarily Black activists and white moderates spurred progress, sometimes haltingly, and often with great difficulty. 

These two groups were not always in agreement, but together they were ablegradually, over several decades—to turn the tide of race relations in Arlington, reversing the oppressive rule of Jim Crow.