Since 1870, Loudoun County Public Schools have served students in the Northern Virginia region. However, until the late 1960s, the schools were divided on the basis of race.
In the western end of the county, Banneker Elementary school in St.Louis was segregated until 1968. During this time, the school taught students from kindergarten through eighth grade.
“We just didn’t have the things that the white kids had. I know that for a fact. When I talked with the people I used to work with, I worked at the grocery store with a lot of white kids…and it was entirely different,” said Banneker alumni Eugene Roberts.
After attending Banneker, the closest black high school was Douglass in Leesburg. Swithern Lloyd attended Douglass until 1968 and then finished his last two years of high school at an integrated school, Loudoun Valley in Purcellville.
“I remember our principal called us off to the side because he said a lot of you will be going to another school this year. There will be integration, this, that and the other. I want you to be on your best behavior,” said Lloyd, “The equipment and stuff you had was all hand-me-down at Douglass. When you went to Valley, you had new stuff you could use, you had new books coming in.”
Today, Banneker Elementary is the only existing black school in the county from before integration that still operates as a public school today. Douglass has transitioned from a high school to a special purpose school and community center.
Brandon Grayson is an African-American, St. Louis native who attended Banneker in the early 2000s. The demographics of the school system and Banneker itself are much different than when Banneker was segregated.
According to Loudoun County Public Schools, 48 percent of district’s students today are white, 22 percent Asian, 18 percent Hispanic and seven percent black.
“When I first came here, it was kind of awkward. I was the only black kid in my kindergarten class. Same thing with first grade, all the way through fifth grade. It was just me and then one other girl transferred in too, she was black. For the most part, it was just me and her through the five years,” said Grayson.
Grayson believes that it’s important to know the history of these schools in order to keep their African-American history alive.