Reflecting on Dean's Community
Jennie Dean’s creation has not been wholly forgotten. A memorial stands between Jennie Dean Elementary School and Dean Park, both named after her. Nonetheless, it was years before this memorial was ever built. Remembrance of Dean’s determination, her drive and initiative in a country that didn’t believe in her, has nearly disappeared. The community she created is being forgotten as time marches on.
Manassas Industrial School is a core part of Virginia history, but it is not being taught in schools, even in Prince William County. Dean’s story deserves to be taught alongside her contemporaries like W.E.B DeBois, to whom she was once compared favorably by President Theodore Roosevelt. Just like McKittrick’s auction block, all that remains are empty spaces, empty foundations of a school and community that once was.
The statue of Dean at her memorial, hand outstretched, is a reminder of her goal: to lead young Black folk to a better life, lifting them out of poverty by giving them an education. By doing so, she created a community for Black folk in Northern Virginia to prosper. Dean lived long enough to see folks from as far away as Detroit and Florida attend the school she built. She saw the long reach of her community, and it is up to us not to forget it.
By Jasper Ramsey