Tag Archives: public schools

- W.C. and Earl and the Popular Girl: The Virginia Yearbook Project


In the summer of 2012, the Library Development and Networking Division started a project that included loaning scanners and computers to Virginia libraries in the hope of bringing to light hidden local history collections housed in public libraries. These collections hold items of local interest and historical value, and many of these items are unique to their region or locality. This project was started and continues to be funded with grants provided by the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), whose mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people with ideas, administers LSTA funds.

A team of Library of Virginia staff traveled to public libraries to deliver the scanners and peripheral equipment, providing training on using the equipment, guidance on organizing materials to be digitized as well as file-naming conventions, and conducting an assessment of items to determine their value for scanning.

In August 2012, the LVA team visited the Halifax County South Boston Public Library. As part of the discovery process, the team was told about a safe located in the local history room of the library. While library staff believed that this safe might contain some important documents that should be scanned, no one had been able to open the safe even with instructions provided. Luckily, LVA’s former Local Records Director (and … read more »

- “What Did You Learn in School Today?” – The Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board

Senate of Virginia, 1956, Foster Studio, Richmond, Virginia, Library of Virginia Special Collections, Prints & Photographs.

As public schools across Virginia open this week, Out of the Box would like to spotlight the records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, a state agency created in 1956 in reaction to the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) United States Supreme Court decision.  The Pupil Placement Board, as one arm of Virginia’s policy of Massive Resistance, was charged with assigning, enrolling, or placing students to and in public schools, a task formerly under the control of local school boards and divisions of superintendents.  The board operated from 1957 to 1966, but its power diminished with the end of Massive Resistance in 1959.  The collection, now available to researchers, contains 746 boxes of paper records.  Included are correspondence and subject files, personnel files, board minutes, legal files, maps, publications and newspaper clippings, and applications for student placement.

The board’s authorizing legislation required members to take several factors into consideration when placing a pupil in a school. Factors included but were not limited to the health of the pupil, his or her aptitudes, the availability of transportation, and, “such other relevant matters as may be pertinent to the efficient operation of the schools or indicate a clear and present danger to the public peace and tranquility affecting the safety or welfare of the citizens of such school district.” Students who were already in … read more »

- Mapping segregation in Virginia’s early public schools

Before the Civil War, Virginia did not have a comprehensive public school system. Lawmakers passed various measures to fund public schools, but these measures were directed primarily toward schools for a small segment of the population, the children of indigent white families. These schools were known as “free schools” or “charity schools,” and only the very poor attended. African Americans, free and enslaved, were excluded from these schools because it was illegal to teach them. With the end of the Civil War and ratification of a new state constitution in 1869, lawmakers established in 1870 Virginia’s first public school system for all children, in order to “prevent children growing up in ignorance, or becoming vagrants.”

As local officials complied with the new state law, they set about drawing school districts segregated by race. This could be a challenge, however.  While cataloging Alexandria/Arlington County school records recently, I came upon this hand-drawn map of Jefferson Township (in what was then Alexandria County, part of present-day urban Arlington), which shows white and African American families living closely together. To create two districts segregated by race, the map-maker drew what looks like a badly gerrymandered voting district. The map was attached to an 1870 census of school-aged children in Jefferson Township. Each dwelling is designated W (“white”) or C (“colored”).

Jefferson Township was located near what is now Crystal City and the 14th Street Bridge connecting Virginia and the District of Columbia. The Jefferson Township Board … read more »