Less than a year after it was vandalized with swastikas and hateful messages and fifty years after it last held classes, a renewed historic Ashburn Colored School was opened to the public.
The 124-year-old building was originally used to educate black people in Loudoun before the schools were desegregated. It had no heat or running water, and has stood vacant since the late 1950s.
In 2014, the Loudoun School for the Gifted bought the property, with the mission of making it a living museum. Loudoun School for the Gifted students led the fundraising efforts, but had only raised a few thousand dollars of their $100,000 by last October.
The school was vandalized overnight on Sept. 30, but the outpouring of community support turned that into a blessing. Within weeks, they had reached their fundraising goal, accelerating plans for the school.
Several people who had attended the school were on hand to see it newly restored at an unveiling ceremony Saturday, Sept. 16. Dorothy Carpenter presented a certificate of promotion form second grade to third, signed by the schoolhouse’s former teacher Lola Jackson. Louise Winzor presented the school with a painting she created of the building before it was restored, along with a plaque for the students of Loudoun School for the Gifted.
“This is a legacy, a history that we cannot forget and put under dirt,” Winzor said.
The ceremony also included religious, civil rights, and elected leaders, speeches, and music.
“There have been times in our history when we have failed to live up to those ideas that are enshrined in our Constitution, but we can take pride in knowing that together, over the long trajectory of time, we are moving toward equality,” said Attorney General Mark Herring.
“Unity is only one thing: it’s our collective recognition that we occupy not just the same space, but we all deserve equal respect as humans,” said Leesburg councilman Ron Campbell. “Our voices, our opinions, our lives matter.”
County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) closed the ceremony saying she, a black woman, could only hold that office because of “people that came before us for generations, names that we will never, ever know.” She likened progress in society not to a marathon, but a relay.
“We walk humbly before God knowing that these people put us in these positions, that’s what we’re supposed to do,” Randall said. “And the moment that we forget how we got here… the moment I forget any of that, I dishonor the legacy and I drop the baton.”
And each of the many speakers at the ceremony asked the people in attendance to keep up that work.
“Wake up if you’re not awake, and if you are awake, stay woke,” Randall said. “Because you know what, we’ve not overcome. We’re not finished. The race is not yet won.”
And Deep Sran, founder of the Loudoun School for the Gifted and a candidate in the Democratic primary for the 10th Congressional district, said despite the schoolhouse’s history as the product of a segregated nation and state, he talks about the school “not as a memorial just to divided America, but a monument to what’s best in us.”
“It is a monument to the possible future,” Sran said. “It is a monument to what we can do together when we commit to work for our children and our future.”