History of African-American Education in Montgomery County


For nearly a century, schools for black students in Montgomery County (and indeed most of the country) were denied the benefits provided to their entirely separate, but supposedly “equal,” white counterparts.


Until 1872, Maryland counties were under no obligation to provide public schools for African American students. Instead, children were taught informally at home, or in small private schools. A state law was passed in 1872 mandating the separate education of white and black students, but that only improved the situation so far. The Montgomery County school board resisted the construction and maintenance of black schools. New schools were promised but never built. Repairs to old and inadequate facilities were often refused; damaged or burned structures were ignored for years, and teachers were forced to find some other place to hold class. The school system often provided textbooks and supplies that had been used and discarded by the white schools. Staff wages were sometimes halted, and classes suspended, with little notice or excuse. The official academic year was months shorter than that of the white schools, and although many African American teachers were better qualified than their white peers, their official wage scale was much lower. Nevertheless, teachers and parents were dedicated to providing the best education they could, despite these adverse circumstances.