There were several public and quasi-private schools in Leesburg catering to African-Americans between 1866 and end of segregation in 1968. More will be said about each in 2018.
The first institution was a Freedman’s School, established in 1866. The teacher most known was Caroline Thomas, who was also the instructor for Edwin Washington, for whom the project was named. Very likely, this was located at or near 209 South King Street.
The second school at 2 North Street, was the home of William O. Robey. It was also set up in 1866. Robey was both a blacksmith and a preacher. He also led the campaign to build the initial Mount Zion United Methodist Church.
The third establishment was established in 1867 at 211 South King by Richard Bailey, a literate African-American. The school was first called the Bailey School Society, then Bailey’s Institute by 1873. By the 1930’s, it was a nursery school and day care by 1953 became Bailey’s Community Center. The building was later sold off and the proceeds used for a scholarship fund.
Photo above of Bailey’s is from the collection of the Balch Library.
The fourth, and still standing structure was the Leesburg Colored School or simply the Leesburg School, built about 1880. Also called The Loudoun Training Center. The lower floor was an elementary, which went to the 7th grade. Until 1941, the second floor was an unaccredited High School, at which point the entire building was used for elementary education. Until 1941, those wanting an accredited High School education had to go to the Manassas Training Center in Prince William County, which was set up by Evangelist Jennie Dean, or to high schools in Washington, DC. Located at 20 Union St., NW, behind the School Board Annex.
An ordinary joisted, two story, detached frame building on stone foundation, with metal roof. It contained five rooms, was lit with electricity and heated with stoves, the flues to which were of standard construction. The building is of approximately 20.5′ x 50.5′ with a one story addition of 20.5′ x 27.5′. Pictured above in 1940 the building was considered only in fair condition, and when inspected by the Edwin Washington Project in 2016, was determined to be uninhabitable without significant repairs and upgrades. In 1940, it was insured for $6,000.
Frederick Douglass School, 407 East Market Street is the most famous, being the first accredited high school for African Americans. It was established in 1941 after a long struggle led by the County-Wide League, various teachers and the NAACP, as well nearly the entire African-American community across Loudoun County.
- African American Heritage Trail: Leesburg Virginia by the Loudoun Museum and the Black History Committee of the Friends of the Thomas Balch Library.
- Inspection and Survey Report, Property of Loudoun County School Board, by Garrett Insurance Agency, Leesburg, October, 1940. Edwin Washington Archives, File 11 Insurance\1940InsurancePhotos.