Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian) will ask her colleagues on the county board and School Board “to study the harm caused by Loudoun County’s discrimination of Black students and seek out ways to rectify disparities.”
While her Sept. 17 announcement and proposed board item are not clear on what form that study will take, Briskman cites examples around the country such as city mayors committing to pay reparations for slavery, Georgetown University paying reparations to the descendants of 272 slaves the university sold in 1838 to save itself from bankruptcy, and House Bill 1980 passed this year introduced by Loudoun Del. David A. Reid (D-32) establishing the Enslaved Ancestors College Access Scholarship and Memorial Program.
That bill requires Longwood University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Virginia Military Institute, and The College of William and Mary to annually identify and memorialize all enslaved people who worked at those universities and provide “atangible benefit such as a college scholarship or community-based economic development program for individuals or specific communities with a demonstrated historic connection to slavery that will empower families to be lifted out of the cycle of poverty.”
“Rectifying these disparities is a moral imperative. It is my hope these discussions will lead to mitigation of these egregious harms, at least on the local level, and potentially set an example as to how our nation could respond,” Briskman stated in the press release. “We need to have these conversations in order to heal our county, our state, and our country.”
“The purpose of a truth and reconciliation committee is to hold public hearings to establish the scale and impact of a past injustice, typically involving wide-scale human rights abuses, and make it part of the permanent, unassailable public record,” reads the meeting item prepared for the Sept. 21 county board meeting by Briskman’s office.
But the first step, according to that item, will be to send the idea to the Joint Board of Supervisors and School Board Committee to discuss and send back to the Board of Supervisors with recommendations. Briskman also sits on that committee.
Loudoun’s Black community often faced hardship attempting to educate their children, including resistance to integration and underfunding from the county. Loudoun County was one of the last school districts in the country to desegregate. Loudoun Schools were integrated in 1968, 14 years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education ruling that declared separate public schools based on race to be unconstitutional.
The county board fought integration, including supporting a state constitutional amendment that would allow them to help pay for white students to go to private schools, avoiding integrated public schools; withholding work on Douglass Elementary School and Douglass High School 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,” and joining the effort to defund schools rather than integrate. During that time, the School Board was appointed by the Board of Supervisors.
Briskman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the proposal.