Student Experience

A quote by Mrs. Ora Lawson described the conditions that students experienced in Fairfax County's "colored schools." She told a story about Cub Run Elementary, which was similar to Eleven Oaks: "It was a two-room school with an outdoor privy. We did our own janitorial work till the PTA hired a high school boy as a janitor. When I came," Mrs. Lawson reported, "we had an old broken ax, an old shovel and three or four pieces of chalk, erasers and a very few 'hand-me-down' books from the white schools. Furniture was hand-me-down from the white schools. There was well water and one dipper for drinking unless the students brought their own drinking cup."[1]  She added that "[w]e had a hot soup program, too. The parents donated ingredients and the soup was made in a large pot on the stove. "[2]  The comparison between Cub Run to Eleven Oaks had a historical component too.  They were institutions built by people who came out of slavery," Mrs. Lawson said, but Cub Run "was not a Rosenwald School."[3]  She did not explain the meaning of that comment.

In 1951, Cub Run Elemenrary and another one-room school were told to send their students to Eleven Oaks, which was considered a county-built school with solid brick construction.[4] Eleven Oaks students remembered their building as a big new improvement over the one-room schoolhouse.  Eleven Oaks developed a nuturing and welcoming culture, as well, with warm meals and more supplies, which supported the learning goals of Black children.  However, it is also important to note that Eleven Oaks had a challenging work environment. Staff set up offices in coat closets and secretaries were habitually providing food they brought from home to hungry students. 

According to Mrs. Moore, the county supervisor for Black schools who observed different classes one day per month, "[t]here was never a comparison to white schools.”[5]  Newspaper articles, however, compared white and Black schools.  Moreover, Black parents recognized the better opportunities and resources presented in white schools. “I wanted my children to attend Green Acres," one African American mother remarked, because "[i]t was a newer school and had new books. The books at Eleven Oaks were hand-me-downs from the white schools.” [6]

Differences between schools for white students and Black students can also be seen through the floor plans for Eleven Oaks and Green Acres.

By Alexis Massenburg

[1] Evelyn D. Russell-Porte, “A History of Education for Black Students in Fairfax County Prior to 1954,” Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. (2000).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] William Johnson, “African American Education in the Town/City of Fairfax,” The Fare Facs Gazette. (2006). 

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