(Extensions of Remarks - December 29, 2017)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E1764]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                         HON. BARBARA COMSTOCK

                              of virginia

                    in the house of representatives

                       Friday, December 29, 2017

  Mrs. COMSTOCK. Mr. Speaker, I rise to recognize Benjamin Banneker 
Elementary School, as it celebrates 70 years of excellence in the 10th 
Congressional District of Virginia. Located in the Village of St. Louis 
in Loudoun County, the parents, teachers and students of Benjamin 
Banneker School and its predecessor, St. Louis School, have survived 
the awful conditions of segregation and the political gamesmanship over 
desegregation, to become a wonderful place of learning for a multi-
racial student population in 2017.
  The village of St. Louis was established in 1881, when landowner 
Thomas Glascock sold one-acre lots to formerly enslaved families. 
Earlier, in 1877, a one-room school had been established to attempt to 
serve the educational needs of the children of St. Louis and 
surrounding areas. However, the St. Louis School and other schools for 
black students of this era were overcrowded, mediocre facilities, 
usually with only a wood stove for heat and an outhouse. In 1896, the 
U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Plessy vs. Ferguson mandated that 
segregated public schools in Loudoun County and elsewhere in the nation 
operate under the doctrine of ``Separate but Equal.'' While African-
Americans advocated for equal pay for teachers and equal facilities for 
students, conditions remained unequal, with upwards of 50 students 
being placed in some one-room schoolhouses. By 1930, a national 
movement for ``equalization'' had been established by the NAACP and the 
parents of African-American students in Loudoun County began a protest 
movement known as the County-Wide League. After many years of advocacy 
for improved conditions, on March 31, 1948, the Parent and Teacher 
Association of St. Louis was able to convince the county school board 
to purchase 19 acres in the village and build the six-room Benjamin 
Banneker School, bringing together black students from several area 
schools whose buildings had badly deteriorated.
  While there were improvements in conditions at all-black consolidated 
schools such as Benjamin Banneker, the NAACP, represented by future 
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, argued that such physical 
improvements did not equalize the learning experience of blacks and 
whites, and that, in fact, the ``separate but equal'' doctrine was 
inherently unequal. Although, in 1954, the Supreme Court agreed with 
the NAACP in the landmark decision of Brown vs. Board of Education, 
parts of the Commonwealth of Virginia defied the judicial mandate until 
1967, when Loudoun schools were finally integrated. In 1968, and as an 
aspect of the integration process, the Loudoun School Board attempted 
to change the name of the school to Mercer Elementary. However, the 
pride of the St. Louis community once again prevailed, as the community 
was able to convince the school board to reverse itself and keep the 
Benjamin Banneker name, whose namesake had been such an inspiration for 
the students and teachers of the school. Born a free man, Banneker was 
a self-educated natural philosopher, mathematician and astronomer, who 
helped to survey the new capital city, the District of Columbia, and 
challenged future president Thomas Jefferson on the issue of slavery, 
asserting that it totally contradicted the religious and political 
principles of our nation as they were laid out in the Declaration of 
Independence and Bill of Rights.
  Mr. Speaker, I recently had the pleasure of visiting Benjamin 
Banneker Elementary School and meeting three of the school's alumni, 
Mary and Eugene Howard and Ann Bland, who were students during the 
years of segregation. I then had the privilege of joining them and the 
school principal, Robert Carter, and the school's fifth graders, in 
dedicating a beautiful plaque that they initiated, to memorialize the 
school's important history. Mr. Speaker, I ask you and our colleagues 
to join me in honoring the determination of those who worked to ensure 
a quality education for the students of Benjamin Banneker School during 
those difficult years of segregation and in celebrating the outstanding 
teachers, administrators and community leaders who, seventy years from 
its founding, are continuing the tradition of providing an excellent 
education to the students of the school.