“BEFORE US LIES THE TIMBER…

LET US BUILD”

Reflections, 1961 onward

 

 

Carver High School, closed 1960. Photo credit: Montgomery History: Jane Sween Library

 

Though it could be argued that that full integration is still a work in progress today, due to socio-economic factors and continued discrimination, the official integration process in Montgomery County was considered complete by 1961, when the last of the black-only schools were closed and repurposed. The consolidated elementary schools that had been built in the early 1950s were all closed in 1959, with the exception of Edward U. Taylor, which was integrated. Longview and Rock Terrace were designated as special needs educational facilities and Sandy Spring became a community center. All the one- or two-room schoolhouses in the more rural regions of the county were turned into community centers, repurposed in other ways, or eventually torn down. Although the all-black elementary schools had been either integrated or closed by 1961, there still remained 46 all-white schools in the county at that time, since many schools served communities that had no black residents with school-age children.

 

Lincoln Jr. High became the building for Supporting Services and Reading Resources in 1960, and Carver High School was converted to the headquarters of the Education Services Center the same year.

 

 “There was talk about taking Carver and making it into an administration building, and I said, ‘No that doesn’t make sense… You need a new junior high, take Carver and make that the junior high.’ Little did I know that the rednecks of Rockville– I didn’t know there were that many because I knew the good liberals of Rockville– they came out in droves. Their children would not sit on a toilet seat that a black child had sat on. Their child would not sit at a desk where a black child had written. And they demanded that we build them a new school…

The wonderful thing about that is that after the whole mess, ironically the school they built was the one on Falls Road, Julius West, that turned out to be architecturally our ugliest school. And I said, ‘Now that is poetic justice.’ Here you have this ugly school and you have this administrative building [once Carver High School] that is so fouled up, it’s got too many levels and entrances, so you have two messes. A monument to stupidity and prejudice, I called it.”

~Rose Kramer

 

Edith Throckmorton, formerly the principal at Longview, was offered a position as a teacher in an integrated school, working for a white principal she knew was less qualified than herself. She resigned from the Montgomery County Schools in 1959 in protest at her assignment and politely refused to attend the “retirement” party that was given in her honor. Instead, she focused her efforts in the NAACP, becoming president of the Montgomery County chapter by 1962.

 

In 1960, Margaret T. Jones, formerly the principal of Rock Terrace, was offered principalship of Bannockburn School in Bethesda, making her the first African-American principal of an all-white school. 

 

“I came to [Superintendent Taylor Whittier] one day and I said, ‘Taylor, it’s embarrassing… that you don’t have one black principal.’[…] So he called me one day and he said, “Rose, I’ve got the principal. Margaret Jones. I’ve got the right school, the right environment for her.’ […] He put her in Bannockburn, and the people there not only adored her, but they adored the fact that they were the first to profit from this wonderful openness.”

~Rose Kramer

 

“I was in the office and Dr. Whittier said to me, ‘I want to see you.’ …And he told me that, you know, I was being considered for a position in an all-white school. So he described the community, and he didn’t name the school that I was to go to; and so finally I said, ‘Will you tell me the name of the school?’ And he said, ‘Yes– Bannockburn.’ And so I said, ‘I think I would like that.’”

~Margaret Taylor Jones

Continuing to teach in the school system, Nina Clarke was selected as the first black teacher-specialist in Reading/Language Arts in 1962. She later went on to be Assistant Principal at Brookhaven Elementary, Principal at Aspen Hill Elementary, and after retirement, took a leadership role in research and public education about segregated schools in Montgomery County.

 

 

Rose Kramer continued her political career and was eventually elected to County Council where she served two terms, 1966-1970. She worked for equal rights alongside the NAACP and advocated for affordable housing. 

 

Meanwhile, Geneva Mason and Doris Hackey focused their attention on their families and communities following desegregation.

 

The legacy of those unprecedented, difficult years lives on today. Montgomery County was the first county in Maryland to integrate, setting the example for the rest of the state. Most counties in Maryland were slower to respond to the mandate, choosing more conservative methods that delayed compliance with the ruling into the late 1960s. Prince George’s County, for example, was not significantly integrated until 1974. By sticking to their plan and pushing through resistance, the leaders in Montgomery County fulfilled the mandate set forth by the Supreme Court in their 1955 follow-up legislation to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling: that school systems integrate “with all deliberate speed.” 

 

“Before us lies the timber… let us build” was a well-known motto in the first half of the twentieth century, and was used by Warrick S. Hill as the title of his book on the history of the black high school in the County up to desegregation. It applies to this period as well, for once integration was accomplished, the timber was lain before all Montgomery County citizens, not just whites or just blacks. Now together, both races had to build a more unified community, starting with the children and working towards the future.

 

 

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