Leesburg Students Give Community a Lesson in Virginia History

This was a history lesson on steroids.

For the past three months, fourth-graders at Frederick Douglass Elementary in Leesburg have delved into nearly every aspect of Virginia’s past, from its earliest settlers to the desegregation of its schools. And on Wednesday evening, they invited their families, classmates and community leaders to share in what they’d learned.

The event was called Virginia History Symposium and invited guests to “walk through” the history of the commonwealth. The entire second floor of the school was lined with tri-fold posters, brochures, and laptops flashing slideshows and videos, all carefully crafted by the students. The 80-plus projects examined events such as the 1779 decision to move the capital from Williamsburg to Richmond, detailed the impact of Jim Crow laws, and highlighted the homes of the presidents, including Monticello, Montpelier and Mount Vernon. One project even looked at how Virginia’s seasons impacted what early settlers ate and wore.

David Ostrander, the fourth-grade teacher who helped lead the effort, said the goal of the months-long program was to teach students and the community the importance of preserving Virginia history. “And,” he added, “it is our hope that this event would help educate the public on these historical sites and people that have helped shape our great state, and to promote tourism to these locations.”

The Mosby Heritage Area Association partnered with Frederick Douglass educators to make the Virginia History Symposium possible. Kevin Pawlak, director of education for the association, told the students that “knowing Virginia history is really knowing American history.”

“I’ve never seen a history program that’s this interactive and engaging,” he said. “To see what these students put together is enough fuel for me to keep spreading the lessons of history for years and years and years to come.”

The students also recognized a chapter of history that played out almost 50 years ago right on their school campus. The students and teachers paid special tribute to Fred and Peggy Drummond by presenting a plaque to members of their family. Fred Drummond served as principal of the original Frederick Douglass Elementary when it was segregated and enrolled only black children, and Peggy Drummond worked in the school office.

Principal Drummond, who grew up in New Jersey, described himself as more of a quiet activist who led by example as he waited for the positive change of equal rights to make its way through Loudoun. He got the chance to lead Frederick Douglass Elementary through that change in 1968.

Peggy died in January of this year, and Fred followed two months later. “He set a standard for the quality of education in Loudoun County,” Frederick Douglass Principal Melissa Logan said.

The street in front of the school has been named in honor of the longtime educator, Principal Drummond Way.

Judge Jerome Drummond, son of former Fred and Peggy Drummond, and his wife view a plaque honoring the former educators. [Danielle Nadler/Loudoun Now]

Leave a Reply