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African-American
Schools
in Maryland

Rosenwald School
Galesville
Anne Arundel County

Hosanna School
Berkley
Harford County

Rock Elementary
Stanley Institute
Cambridge
Dorchester County

 

 

Access to education became one of the first and most important paths to equality pursued by African-Americans. After the Civil War, when emancipation guaranteed all blacks freedom and basic rights, African-Americans throughout the South began to build schools to educate their people. Some of these facilities were the creation of the Freedmen’s Bureau, while other schools were the physical embodiment of time and labor given freely by blacks in their individual communities to construct a space where their children could learn how to read and write for the first time. As time passed, the need to create “black” schools was no longer an option, but a necessity resulting from the 1896 Supreme Court case, Plessy v. Ferguson, which institutionalized the concept of “separate but equal” until the mid-twentieth century. Once Brown v. Board of Education overturned the fifty-eight-year-old verdict and facilitated public integration, separate black schools began to close their doors or take on alternative functions.


Examining these old schools further expands our knowledge of American architecture, particularly of buildings that served a social (educational) function for the general public. The four schools selected for this study -- Hosanna, Rock Elementary, Galesville Rosenwald, and Worton Point -- provide excellent examples of how various schools found throughout the eastern portion of Maryland were quite similar in their construction and appearance.

The oldest of the four schools, Hosanna, was originally a two-story school in 1867, but by the 1950s, as a result of Hurricane Hazel, it resembled both Rock Elementary and Worton Point, a one-room, one-story gable-front school. As originally constructed in 1929, the Galesville Rosenwald School had a different layout in that it had two classrooms, but less than two years later, it became a one-story, side-gabled school with only one classroom and two smaller rooms, which today serve as the kitchen and utility closet. Unlike the other three schools, the Galesville Rosenwald School lacked an entrance vestibule, which served as a library at Worton Point and as a storage area for personal effects at Hosanna and Rock Elementary. Each school had a rather large open room for its main classroom, with chalkboards and wooden student desks (the only exception was Galesville, the interior of which was renovated in the 1970s). In addition, Hosanna provided the teacher with a distinct stage at which to work. Both Rock Elementary and Worton Point have sinks, which is standard in all elementary schools today for sanitation.

Heating was a concern for all of the schools for a majority of the school year. Each school relied on coal and/or wood stoves to warm students on cold days; recently Worton Point switched to gas heat. Chimney stacks generally were in the rear gable wall with the stove located more centrally in the room, though Hosanna had a stack on both side walls. Sunlight could provide additional warmth, but it certainly supplied a steady lighting source in all four schools. Tall nine-over-nine double-sash windows were employed at Galesville, originally on the southeast elevation, but moved to the northwest elevation in 1929, giving the school an innovative outer appearance . Hosanna used traditional six-over-six windows, while both Rock Elementary and Worton Point have very trim, narrow, simple windows.

All four schools maintain a symmetrical appearance by the exact alignment/placement of windows and doors. For the most part, the schools lack much detail or ornamentation; only Rock Elementary has boxed cornices with returns, and Hosanna has elaborate shutter dogs that hold open green shutters. Horizontal board siding can be found on the exterior of all four schools, while the interior wall finishes vary greatly: plaster at Hosanna, painted walls and wainscoting at Rock Elementary, and wood grain paneling that replaced earlier painted or plastered walls at Galesville and Worton Point. A simple construction style accurately describes Hosanna, Rock Elementary, and Worton Point, while the Galesville Rosenwald school employed the Colonial Revival style.

Architecture aside, each school tells a story of the men and women who built it, of the teachers and students who used it, and of the local concerned citizens who want to save it. Together, these different stories make powerful contributions not only to local, state, and American history, but particularly to the African-American community. Hosanna School began through a joint initiative by the Freedmen’s Bureau and members of a local prominent black family, the Pacas, immediately after the end of the Civil War, while the Galesville Rosenwald School was the result of local, state, and private funding during the middle of the Jim Crow years. All four buildings were multi-functional: African-Americans employed them as churches and community centers as well as schools.


All four schools have been closed since the 1950-1960s, but the desire to use these facilities for educational endeavors continues. Children can no longer take classes in these buildings, but students can learn about what a typical school day was like for black pupils at the museum programs operated at both Hosanna and Worton Point. Supporters of the Galesville and Rock Elementary schools have ambitions to do the same with their buildings. Local citizens, concerned not only with saving the physical buildings but also the legacy they represent, have devoted much time and energy to preserving these buildings. Whether in the beginning stages, such as boarding up windows, or in full stride, obtaining grants to begin restoration work, members of Galesville, Hosanna, Rock Elementary, and Worton Point are committed to the preservation challenge these schools present.

 

 
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