Letter: Page Middle School an important part of racial history
The history of the Page Middle School sheds a light on the relationships between the white and African American residents of Gloucester. Shortly after the victory of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the landmark case of Irene Morgan v. Greyhound, which destroyed segregation in interstate commerce, Thurgood Marshall, Oliver Hill and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund decided to enforce the "equal" provisions of the then-existing "separate but equal" provision of Virginia law. G. Nelson Carter, President, Dr. Robert S. Turner, Secretary, and G. McCurley Garnett, Treasurer of the Tri-County (Gloucester, Mathews and King and Queen counties) branch of the NAACP took several brave black students up the steps of the Botetourt School to the Superintendent’s Office, and attempted to enroll them in the all-white school.
The resulting federal lawsuit was another victory for the NAACP, and resulted in a court order requiring that a new modern brick school be built to replace the old wooden frame structure of the black Gloucester County Training School that had been built with the assistance of the Rosenwald Foundation in 1921. The order provided that no white school could be built until the new school had been completed, and the white school had to be brick-for-brick, locker-for-locker, library-for-library and classroom-for-classroom identical to the new black school. Likewise, desks, auditorium and laboratory facilities were to be equal as well. The Gloucester High School, now known as the Page Middle School, was subsequently built as a result, and retained its remarkable similarity to the renamed T. C. Walker School until the recent tornado.
I think that the new replacement school should be built on the site of the damaged Page School and that the historical significance of the site and the structure be recognized as far as possible in its architectural design.
Gloucester County was at the center of the quest for racial equality in the 1940s and ’50s, and led Virginia in peacefully abolishing the "Freedom of Choice" system of partial segregation as well in the 1970s. It is a special place with a laudatory history of peacefully facilitating equality between the races over the years. Page Middle School was evidence of that proud history.
Frederick R. Carter
Newport News, Va.