Monday, July 07, 2008

Boyds Historical Society offers short film about past segregation in Maryland

The Boyds Historical Society and Montgomery County Historical Society offer a 26 minute short “Boyds Negro School: Historic Lives,” directed by Ric Wagner. Boyds is a small town 27 miles northwest of Washington DC, off of I-270. The last weekend in June, the one room school house, which had run a one-room segregated school (for grades 1 to 7) from 1896 to 1936, was open to the public for viewing. In 1936, the students were moved to a school in nearby Clarksburg, and then to Edward Taylor Elementary School, which would become integrated in 1961. Near the end, the film mentions the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

The film is narrated by Steven Hartgrove and interviews former teacher Lillian Giles. Until the 1930s, it was common for a teacher to live with a family of one of the students, as she did. (This fact is noted in the 1964 book by Bill Severn: Teacher, Soldier, President: The Life of James A. Garfield.) One time she was stranded for a week in the area by a blizzard (of which many pictures are shown). The film describes home life, with the large families, daily chores, and crank-up victrolas that were used to play mostly hymns. The boys would play baseball and girls would play dodge ball. There are many black and white stills and film clips, including one of a steam train. There are many stills and videos taken from inside the school.

The film mentions two nearby communities, Turnertown and Blocktown, which apparently had been awarded to former slaves as consideration for their past service (or of their ancestors). No direct mention is made of the reparations argument.

Montgomery County (Maryland), with borders the Northwest side of Washington DC and reaches a bit more than half way to Frederick, MD, is one of the wealthiest suburban and exurban counties in the United States. Today it is generally considered politically liberal and tends to vote Democratic. That it has this history is indeed interesting.

Update: Sept. 22, 2011:  A similar school in Ellicott City (Howard County) MD.

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