On February 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 Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, all four of the original integrating students will return 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 will be honored participants in a special evening, “Celebrating Arlington’s History Makers.”
The former students will join a distinguished panel of community members in Stratford Auditorium, 4100 Vacation Lane in Arlington, where the County invites the public to join in honoring them and the community effort that helped bring about integration.
The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a screening of the 2001 documentary “It’s Just Me … The Integration of the Arlington Public Schools,” which was developed by the Arlington Educational Television (AETV) staff to share the memories and reflections of the people who were involved in the struggle to integrate Arlington Public Schools.
After the screening, the former students will join community leaders to discuss that pivotal time and the role each played
The panelists include:
- Students who integrated Stratford Junior High School in February 1959
- Michael Jones
- Gloria Thompson
- Lance Newman
- Ronald Deskins
- Alfred O. Taylor, Jr., civic activist, educator, author, and community historian
- Sharon Mondé, APS graduate and former APS teacher and administrator
- Carmela Hamm, daughter of Dorothy Hamm, Arlington leader in the struggle to integrate schools
- Martha Miller, Stratford Junior High School teacher in 1959, author
- Moderator: Drew Costley,
- Arlington Public Schools
- Arlington County Government
- Arlington Chapter of the NAACP
- Black Heritage Museum of Arlington