Black Public Education in Arlington County Before 1947
Prior to the Civil War, it had been illegal for Blacks to gather together for purposes of education, whether they were free or enslaved. For that matter, there had not been a system of public schools for white students either. Virginia had historically been opposed to public schools, as had most of the South. Private schools served the Commonwealth’s population of white elites.
After the Civil War, however, Virginia began to establish public schools. In 1870, Arlington County (then known as Alexandria County) established three public schools: the whites-only Columbia and Walker schools and the Arlington School for Negroes in Freedman’s Village, a settlement of freed former slaves on the federally seized grounds of Robert E. Lee’s Arlington plantation.
The history of Black public education in Arlington between 1870 and 1950 is told eloquently and in great depth in Ophelia Braden Taylor’s 1951 Public Education for Negroes in Arlington County, Virginia from 1870 to 1950, which she completed while working on a Master of Arts in Education at Howard University.
This document came to the Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History as part of the papers of George Melvin Richardson, former principal of Hoffman-Boston Junior-Senior High School. It is an invaluable and thoroughly researched document that is almost certainly still the best history of the topic to date.