Second Street School Living History Program
Since 1984, fourth grade students from Loudoun County, Virginia and surrounding areas have been recreating a school day in 1880 by taking on the roles of the African-American children who actually attended school at that time.
The program, developed with the help of the National Endowment for the Humanities, fosters an appreciation of the opportunities and limitations faced by black children in a segregated one-room school. Recitation, seat exercises, and a spelling bee are part of the two-hour school “day.”
Waterford Foundation volunteers take on the identities of the teacher, Miss Aura Nickens, and her assistant, Miss Lizzie Simms. The program reaches some 1,000 young scholars during a five-week fall session and a nine-week spring term.
Schedule and Registration
540-882-3018 x 3
Teachers: Visit the Teachers’ Page (password needed) to access documents to prepare your classes for their Second Street School program.
History of the Second Street School
In 1867 the first public school for Waterford’s African American community was built at the corner of Fairfax and Second streets, on land that Quaker Reuben Schooley (1826-1900) sold to the “colored people of Waterford and vicinity.” At that time it was known as the “Colored School ‘A,’ Jefferson District.” Today it is known as the Second Street School. The local African-American population, with financial help from the Quakers, erected the building which was used as both a school and for church functions. This is one of the first one-room schoolhouses for black children in Loudoun County and is one of the earliest African-American houses of worship.
The simple one-room frame school on Second Street was built just two years after the Civil War ended. Opened under the auspices of the Freedmen’s Bureau, it was Waterford’s first school for the black community. The Friends’ Association of Philadelphia, Waterford’s local Quaker meeting, and a “colored educational board” provided additional support. The first teacher was Miss Sarah Ann Steer, a Quaker living down the street who had begun teaching pupils at her own home in 1865. Subsequent teachers were all from the black community.
Early classes were large. The District Superintendent’s report to the Freedmen’s Bureau in 1868 recorded 63 students enrolled, with an average attendance of 42. Twenty-eight were older than 16 years. By the early 1870s the school became part of the county’s new public school system.
Black children from the village and nearby farms attended the school until 1957, when it was closed by the School Board. From then until 1965, Waterford’s African-American students were bussed to Leesburg to consolidated schools. Waterford’s present brick elementary school—“the new school”—opened its doors as an integrated school in 1965.
The Second Street School served from the beginning as church as well as school. African Methodist Episcopal services were held here until 1891, when John Wesley Church was built near the mill. One student recalled attending Baptist services at the school around the turn of the century. Recognizing its historical significance, the Waterford Foundation acquired the building in 1977.