On Feb. 2, 1959, four African American seventh-graders entered Stratford Junior High School, marking the beginning of the end of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s practice of public school segregation. They were the first African American students in Arlington County to attend their neighborhood school rather than a segregated school.
On Tues., Feb. 2, 2016, three of the four of the original integrating students returned to the Stratford Building, now home to the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program. Fifty-seven years ago on that day, they had to negotiate a battalion of helmeted police officers protecting the perimeter of the school grounds. This time, they were honored participants in a special evening, “Celebrating Arlington’s History Makers.”
The former students — Michael Jones, Lance Newman and Ronald Deskins — joined a distinguished panel of community members in Stratford Auditorium, where the public joined the County in honoring them and the community effort that helped bring about integration. The other panelists included:
- Alfred O. Taylor, Jr., an educator, civic activist and leader, community historian, and author of the newly published “Bridge Builders of Nauck/Green Valley – Past and Present.”
- Sharon Mondé, an Arlington Public Schools graduate who made her career with APS, serving as a foreign language teacher, Minority Achievement Coordinator, and principal of Jefferson Middle School.
- Carmela Hamm, formerly with Commonwealth Public Broadcasting where she directed broadcasts of the VA State Senate. She also is a documentary filmmaker, and daughter of Dorothy M. Bigelow Hamm, a leader in Arlington’s struggle to integrate its public schools.
- Martha Miller, a former teacher at Stratford Jr. High School during the time of integration and author of her memoir entitled “The First Century.”
- Moderator: Drew Costley, graduate of H-B Woodlawn and UDC and the current News Editor for the Falls Church News Press
Learn more about the event by watching this video of APS’s student event with the panelists. See photographer Greg Embree’s full gallery here.
An Evening to Celebrate Arlington's History Makers, Feb. 2, 2016