Symbol of Racial Separatism For Years
Booker T. Washington School
The Booker T, Washington School, the symbol of racial , separatism in Mt. Vernon for many years and a White elephant for the past 12 years will be sold tomorrow, and will apparently serve as a recreational center. The bullding lay dormant from 1962 to 1965, was used by fhe Mt, Vernon YMCA from 1965 to 1970, then went back into mothballs. The passage of time makes it difficult to imagine that only a dozen years ago, this community supported an all.black school. Just as difficult to imagine is that Mt. Vernon was attacked twice by the NAACP, once in 1957 and again in in 1962, for maintaining what the NAACP felt s was a segregated system. By the late 50's, however, a the Disrict 80 grade school board had told parents of black children fhat they could choose whether to send them to Washington School or to the school located in their neighborhood. And by l962, when the NAACP made, It's second criticism of Mt. Vernon, the closing of Washington School had already been announced. On Jan.10th of that year, the District 80 board announced that the school would be closed at the end of the school year . The board acted on a recommendation by a committee which had been appointed in 1961 by Board President Fletcher Farrar. The decision to let parents choose between Washington and the other city schools might have forestalled criticism of the school system, but it also had a drastic effect on enrollment at Washington School. In 1955, enrollment at Washington School peaked at 73 students, all black, But each succeeding year saw more black youngsters switching to Edison, Mann, Hall, and Lincoln schools. The last year fhat Washington School was open, 1961-62, fhere were just 74 in students enrolled. After the closing of the school, board members and the general public began kicking around ideas for a way to use the building. In 1963, City manager Chester Lewis suggested it be used for recreational purposes, perhaps as a YMCA facility. However, when the building was put up for sale on June 5, 1963, no one stepped forward to purchase it. The school board maintained ownership and in 1965, leased the building to the Mt. Vernon YMCA, bringing Lewis's idea into reality. In 1970, the school board decided to sell the school building. An auction was held Aug. 2, 1970, and the minimum bid was set at $90,000. Nobody wanted it at that price, and the auction failed. Tomorrow, the minimum bid will be announced at $30,000. The Mt. Vernon YMCA, four years after it left the building, wants to reinter it now, but as owner this time. The "Y" has submitted an irrevocable offer to bid $30,000. That figure appears a bit ironic in the light of the cost of past construction at the Washington School. In the late 40's and early 50's, when Mt. Vernon poured some $2,000,000 into renovating its entire school system, some $150,000 worth of repairs and additions were made at the school.
Submitted By: Cindy Ford
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