Douglass High School (Douglass Community School)

Historical Significance

In 1924,The Jeanes Fund, a one-million-dollar national fund donated by Miss Anna T. Jeanes, a Quaker from Philadelphia, allowed Loudoun County to hire a superintendent for Negro schools. The county did not do so until 1931, and then for only one year.

As of 1925, the average annual salary for white teachers in the County was $836.10; for black teachers, $358.12. Starting salaries were $520 and $315. The yearly cost to educate a white child was $29.27; a black child, $9.81.

The Leesburg School became the first secondary school for blacks in Loudoun County in 1930, with two added rooms for two years of high-school instruction, graduating a class of five in 1935 as the Loudoun County Training School. Diplomas from its last graduating class of 1940 bear the name Leesburg High School.

The Loudoun County Training School was soon deemed unsafe; it was not accredited by the State of Virginia, and did not have the equipment to offer classes in science and home economics. The County-Wide League, a union of all Negro Parent-Teacher Associations, was organized in 1935 to improve the quality of education for blacks in the County. In 1938, Middleburg blacksmith John Wanzer became League president, serving until his death in 1957. Under the leadership of Gertrude Alexander, appointed the first superintendent of black teachers in 1939, the County-Wide League focused on building a new high school for Negroes.

On March 15, 1940, the Board of Supervisors received “orders to be filed” letters from the County-Wide League and choral clubs of Providence and Mount Olivet Baptist Churches, urging “immediately a safe place of instruction of the Negro students now going to the Loudoun County Training School.” Next day the League’s same letter, drafted by Charles Houston, was sent to the school superintendent.

The County-Wide League had raised the money from the black community to purchase land for the new school, eventually buying eight acres of land near Leesburg for $4,000, and deeding the land to the Loudoun County School Board for $1. (Usually, the school board buys land for schools.)

Named for the famed abolitionist and educator Frederick Douglass, the new high school received accreditation on December 16, 1940, offering a three-year program and graduating its first class of five in 1941. Though the building was paid for with public funds, the black community raised money for furnishings, laboratory equipment, and band instruments. In1949, Douglass High School expanded to include a twelfth grade level, and graduated its first four-year class of twelve in 1950.

Ten years later, and without giving public notice, the school board allowed black children to enter a white school if their parents came to the board offices and got a blue consent slip. However, no one can recall a Negro child going to a white school before 1963. In 1962, a dozen blacks requested the state to admit them to the county’s whites-only high schools, and eight blacks sued Loudoun for its segregated schools. A federal court ordered the county to comply with the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decisions desegregating public schools.
One black girl entered Loudoun County High School in September, 1964.  Ten more black students followed the next year, with no problems except for the common taunts of “nigger.”

The final class of Douglass High School, forty seniors, graduated in May of 1968, with the commencement theme “A Past to be Proud of.” The last all-black classes at Banneker, Carver, and Douglass Elementary Schools graduated the same year. School Superintendent Clarence Bussinger retired in May of 1969 after twelve years of thwarting integration. Under new superintendent Robert Butt from Orange County, the Loudon public schools were finally integrated in the 1969-1970 school year. Fifteen years had passed since the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. 

The Douglass High School building today houses an alternative school, serving students with special needs. 

Physical Description

No Physical Description Available

Geographical and Contact Information

407 East Market Street
Leesburg, Virginia
20176

Cite this Page:

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, “Douglass High School (Douglass Community School),” African American Historic Sites Database, accessed October 22, 2017, http://aahistoricsitesva.org/items/show/109.

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