History of the Second Street School
The Second Street School, previously known as Colored School A, dates from 1867/68, when it opened under the auspices of the Freedmen’s Bureau, with additional funds provided by the Friends’ Association of Philadelphia, Waterford’s local Quaker meeting, and a “colored educational board.” This group consisted of area African-American parents who were desirous of providing educational opportunities for their children, who had been prohibited from participating in state or community supported instruction prior to the Civil War. This school served the black population until 1957. It is known that some of the 1880s students were ‘in service,’ living with and working for white families. They attended school when their employers allowed them. The building also served as a house of worship for the black community for many years.
The Second Street School Living History Program
Since 1984, third and fourth grade students from Loudoun County and neighboring areas have visited the Second Street School via spring ad autumn field trips. During their visit, modern students recreate a school day in 1880 by taking on the roles of the African-American children who actually attended the school at that time. Waterford Foundation volunteers take on the identities of the teacher, Miss Aura Nickens, and her assistant, Miss Lizzie Simms. The program reaches some 1,500 young scholars during a five-week fall session and a nine-week spring term each year.
The Foundation’s Second Street School Living History 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 work with slates and copy books, memory exercises, and a spelling bee are part of the two-hour school “day.”
The impact on children from portraying an actual African-American child who attended this school in 1880 should not be underestimated. Every attempt is made to ensure that the experience is as authentic as possible. Activities provided before and after the visit, as well as the trip itself, encourage the children to think about the many differences between their lives and that of the African American students who attended the school almost 140 years ago. Since the inception of the program, feedback from students that participate in the experience has been overwhelmingly positive. There is still no charge for attendance. The success of this endeavor is a tribute to the many Waterford Foundation volunteers, both past and present, whose dedicated involvement has made this possible. Click here
to view a video produced by Loudoun County Public Schools about the Second Street School Program!
Students come from public, private, parochial, and home-based schools. Signup for the school year begins in August. Contact the Waterford Foundation at the phone number and email address below for more information on this acclaimed living history program:
To reach an even greater audience with Waterford’s cultural history, we have produced interactive Second Street School and African-American history modules. Teachers: Visit the Teachers’ Page (password needed) to access documents to prepare your classes for their Second Street School program.