Williams Plans Apology for Loudoun’s Past School Segregation

Today marks the 57th year since the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a landmark demonstration best known for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. 

Among the civil rights leader’s visions on that day was that “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

On the anniversary of that speech, Loudoun Public Schools Superintendent Eric Williams issued more details on plans to issue a formal, public apology that it is taking so long to make that dream come true. Specifically, Williams, joined by the School Board and possibly other county leaders, plans to apologize for Loudoun’s history of segregation that included keeping Black and white students in separate schools for more than a decade after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education opinion made that illegal.

Williams today said the statement will be issued in September and will be accompanied by a video presentation that describes the history of segregation in Loudoun County public schools, as well as the potential community impact of the apology from the perspective of Black citizens of Loudoun who are directly connected to the school system. 

It also will apologize for the School Board—at the time comprised of members appointed by the Board of Supervisors—that agreed to build a high school for Black students only after families bought the land for the school giving it to the county. The families paid $4,000 for the property that became the Douglass School in Leesburg; the School Board paid them $1.

During a meeting earlier this month, the School Board voted unanimously to join Williams in issuing the statement. Members also asked that the Board of Supervisors be provided the opportunity to join the event.

Supervisors will consider whether to join that apology at their meeting Sept. 1. The county board, too, played a long and significant role in fighting against desegregation in Loudoun schools.

According to a report prepared for that meeting, the Board of Supervisors in January, 1956, voted to support a state constitutional amendment that would allow them to help pay for white students to go to private schools, avoiding going to integrated public schools.

That same month supervisors met with the School Board to discuss additions to both Douglass Elementary School and Douglass High School. Both bodies agreed that no work should be done unless “reasonable assurance was given by the parents of colored children of the County that they conform to the opinion that their education be promoted better by their continued school attendance on a segregated basis.”

That April, the board passed a resolution to stop funding public schools if the federal government forced integration, a resolution only rescinded years later in 1962.

The federal courts twice stepped in to order Loudoun County to desegregate schools. In 1963, a federal court ordered Loudoun County to comply with Brown v. Board of Education and to approve all applications from Black children to attend formerly all-white schools. In 1967, a federal court ordered Loudoun County to establish geographic attendance zones regardless of race in order to fully integrate all schools by the 1968-1969 school year.

“This is something very important to our community. There is a lot of truth that we continued to operate segregated schools after it was ruled we should not,” Beth Barts (Leesburg) said during the School Board’s discussion of the apology, adding it was important to acknowledge that happened and then move forward in good faith.

The symbolic event is part of the school district’s broader anti-racism initiative that has already removed a Confederacy-inspired mascot at Loudoun County High School and restructured admission procedures for the Academies of Loudoun, and also will revamp classroom curricula and expand teacher training and recruitment efforts. 

5 thoughts on “Williams Plans Apology for Loudoun’s Past School Segregation

  • 2020-08-28 at 3:35 pm

    Because nothing celebrates Dr. King’s character over color position more than reversing it in the admissions process to AL.

  • 2020-08-28 at 4:26 pm

    Instead of issuing an apology for something that they were not responsible for, why doesn’t Williams and the School Board focus on educating the students that are in their care now. They could start with ensuring that all students, regardless of color, leave the LCPS system with the ability to compete in college or wherever their lives take them instead of empty virtue-signaling.

  • 2020-08-29 at 6:37 am

    How can the virtue signaling school board participate credibly in an empty apology while ignoring the Plaza Street students who have been denied attendance at their own “brand new” Frederick Douglas Elementary School they could walk to while being bused out of Leesburg to three different schools? Every other community has been given the priority of being able to walk to their local elementary school except these kids – THAT IS DISCRIMINATION! The BOS doesn’t seem to mind this either as they seem accomplished by removing a statue while ignoring the plight of real people living a few blocks away from where they hold meetings.

  • 2020-08-30 at 3:22 pm

    Loudoun Public Schools Superintendent Eric Williams needs to stick to what he was hired for and leave his liberal views where he came from. We are just fine hear and do not need your input

  • 2020-09-01 at 4:01 pm

    We need leadership in LCPS. Squeaky Eric Williams is not a leader and our kids are suffering.

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