The Project is seeking to archive and preserve thousands of lost records covering 1864 to 1968 that were almost burned. These include documents and photographs which we would like to make available for study and interpretation of the educational system during a pivotal time.
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Virginia House of Delegates Commendation

Thanks to bi-partisan leadership by Delegate John Bell, a resolution was agreed to by the Virginia House of Delegates on March 9, 2016 and then by the Virginia Senate on March 10, 2016 commending the effort to preserve the records at LCPS archives that had been previously lost.

Our inspiration

In June, 1867, a “colored” 16 year old boy named Edwin Washington worked in a hotel in Leesburg, Virginia for five dollars a month, plus board, with the “privilege of coming to school” in between errands.   Unfortunately, this meant he couldn’t attend school on a regular basis, or at all during court weeks.  Still, he went to class whenever he could.


This research project is a monument to the bravery and tenacity to learn of Edwin and all of the other African-American children and their parents, educators and patrons of that time and through to the end of segregation in Loudoun County. The project is done in collaboration with the Records Office of the Loudoun County Public Schools, local history clubs, private and government archives and the Black History Committee of the Friends of the Balch Library. the Marshall House student exchange program, and Oatlands Historic House & Gardens.



Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) recovered thousands of lost records covering 1864 to 1968 that were almost burned. LCPS asked local historian, Larry Roeder, who had previously documented the village of Conklin, to document these records. The Project is seeking to archive and preserve these records. which include documents and photographs, and make them available for study and interpretation of the educational system during a pivotal time.

Learn more


The people who help with the project come from many walks of life and include retired and current academics, a former US diplomat, a cartographer and experts in data preservation, the internet and library/information science. We are ordinary citizens who share our individual skills and labor.


From 1894 to 1968 school children in Loudoun County went to a certain school based on the color of their skin. Explore this time period in relation to the Edwin Washington Project records: the places, the people and the country.

Read about how the project got started and what volunteers and the school system have done to research and preserve these records.

Learn about the students, teachers and school buildings that made up the pre-integration school system in Loudoun County.

See the research with links to supporting primary documents in the online catalogue.

Edwin Washington Project Interactive Map

Please note: Some of these school sites are on PRIVATE property. Before visiting a site, the user must obtain permission to enter the property. 

Use of the mapping tool does not convey any license to enter a property.


Read stories that have been collected from the records or contributed by those who remember.

Dirt Don't Burn

Colored schools often had to struggle for the most basic of services. While white children rode buses and wagons, “colored” were relegated to foot traffic until 1941. At Bull Run, every morning each boy brought a lump of coal to the classroom, because coal wasn’t provided by the school system, and others walked to a nearby stream to bring buckets of water for the children to drink.

One day in the early 1950’s at Wellsville school in far western Loudoun, instructor Ethel Smith, tired of not having any wood or coal, wrote to the Superintendent to complain that dirt didn’t burn. In the vernacular “dirt don’t burn” has become a vivid statement about the inequity of resources provided African-Americans. In honor of her brave statement, our written report, which will emerge in 2019 is called Dirt Don’t Burn.

Writing for Justice

Hidden in the bottom of a carboard box was found a large roll of paper tied up with string.  These turned out to be handwritten petitions by Black and White parents that document a shared desire for proper education. One spoke of a teacher who brought a handgun to school to defend himself.  Other argued for equal salary and transportation, without regard to race.  Each petition is a story in its own right about a poor county emerging out of the dust of the Civil War and an evolving understanding of the importance of education.

Serving our Country

Following Pearl Harbor, African-American men wanted to enlist. They volunteered out of loyalty but many were turned away because of malnutrition.  Loudoun was a poor county then and poverty quite common.  Still, the fresh new Douglass High School, the first accredited high school for African-Americans, made sure the young men were fed properly every day and exercised so that they could serve.  Those men used their education to risk their lives for our country.


Help the Edwin Washington Project continue to preserve and share these records! Your donation will help fund essential services and supplies such as archival storage boxes, data storage costs and equipment such as scanners and computers.


The Edwin Washington Project is an effort of Diversity Fairs of Virginia, a registered (501) (c)(3), incorporated in the State of Virginia.  EIN. 47-1765605.

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