Booker T. Washington Elementary School

Historical Significance

Located on the site of Booker T. Washington's birthplace, the elementary school bearing his name opened in 1953. The school was dedicated a year later in 1954, the same year in which the U.S. Supreme Court declared, in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education, that racially segregated education violated the constitutional right of equal protection. The doors of the Booker T. Washington Elementary School closed in the summer of 1966, and in the fall of that year students reported to newly integrated schools.

Excerpt from an Historic Resource Study of the Elementary School and Site:

"In 1952, the trustees of the Booker T. Washington Birthplace Memorial donated to the Franklin County School Board six acres of land which had been part of the Burroughs Plantation. The donation was for construction of one of the county’s last segregated schools for black children, thereby fulfilling one of the memorial’s goals, “to plan for the erection of a consolidated elementary school for Negro children.” The school, designed to at least partially “equalize” facilities for blacks with those traditionally provided for whites, opened in September 1954, four months after the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education found the “separate but equal” doctrine as applied to public education to be unconstitutional. The school continued to operate—as a segregated facility—until the School Board’s Freedom of Choice initiative in 1966 led to the transfer of black students into formerly all-white schools.

The four-room building, accommodating about 90 students, replaced the one-room schoolhouses which had previously served the county’s black elementary schoolchildren. The local African-American community actively supported the new facility, helping to clear the land for its construction and later for a baseball diamond and dirt basketball court and raising money for school equipment and educational field trips.

In 1973 the School Board donated the now-vacant school building and the surrounding property to the NPS, thereby reconnecting the land to the monument...

...(The) historical significance of the Booker T. Washington Elementary School rests on its relationship to three important and interrelated themes: (1) Virginia’s school equalization campaign of the late 1940s and early 1950s; (2) Booker T. Washington’s post-World World II legacy; and (3) the school’s enduring value to alumni and other residents of Franklin County as a site of memory and source of community pride..."

 Physical Description

Currently, the school building is used as park headquarters, housing its administrative, management, and maintenance functions. As of 2003, the building was eligible for National Register nomination. The National Park Service intends to conduct a Historic Resource study to establish a Determination of Eligibility, leading to a National Register Nomination.

Geographical and Contact Information

1162 Poteet Road
Wirtz, Virginia
24184
Phone: 540-721-2859

Cite this Page:

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, “Booker T. Washington Elementary School,” African American Historic Sites Database, accessed October 23, 2017, http://aahistoricsitesva.org/items/show/59.

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