What do you know about Lakeland, a historically significant and tight-knit African American community in College Park? Did you know that this community was established in 1890 just beyond the grounds of the University of Maryland? Did you know that Lakeland’s firm belief in the value of education brought about the 1928 opening of the area’s only high school for African Americans at the time (Lakeland High School)?
Did you know that despite its relatively small size, the Lakeland community’s devotion to faith was so strong that it was home to not one but two congregations (the First Baptist Church of Lakeland (later College Park) and Embry African American Methodist Episcopal Chapel (later Church) in 1903)?
Perhaps most of all: Did you know that the Lakeland community flourished and thrived for decades, despite institutional and de facto racism and segregation?
If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, you’re in good company (well, if you consider ours to be “good” company 😉 ). Thankfully, though, Lakelander Maxine Gross has offered to share her personal insights on the history and heritage of this significant African American community with all of us.
Enjoy this first post in this great Lakeland series.
A Place Called Lakeland
Driving along Route 1, you see new high-rise developments alongside strip shopping centers and fast food shops. If you take take a turn onto Lakeland Road near the University of Maryland’s North Gate, you will find Lakeland. Maybe it would be truer to say the remains of Lakeland, the historic African American community of College Park.
Vibrant Place to Call Home
Lakeland grew as a community during the time of segregation, 1865 to about 1970. (Schools and housing were not desegregated in Prince George’s County until very late. Then there was white flight but those are stories for another day.) It was a vibrant place with homes, some large, and others more modest, with huge vegetable gardens, schools, churches, a social hall, lodge halls, stores, beauty shops and baseball fields.
Lakeland’s boundaries that reached from just behind the east side of US One across the B&O railroad tracks and into what is now Lake Artemesia Natural Area.
Urban Renewal, Displacement
What happened to the Lakeland Community? Urban Renewal happened. In the 1970s, 104 of the community’s households 150 were “displaced” and two-thirds of the land was bulldozed. We are not quite sure how things went so badly wrong for Lakeland. We do know the same thing happened in countless African American communities around the country. A government program sold to communities as a way to improve life turned out to be a way to destroy these same communities.
Today, a small section of the original Lakeland community still stands. There are some homes and two churches dating back more than 125 years. The building that housed Lakeland High School still stands on 54th Avenue.
African American students from the northern half of the County went to school there from 1928 to 1950. Now it is home to the Washington Brazilian Seventh Day Adventist Congregation.
Lakeland Community Heritage Project
A great deal was lost but we still have the stories of Lakelanders through images and oral histories. Lakeland Community Heritage Project is working to see their legacy is ensured by saving their stories for their families, our community and scholars – and by sharing these stories with respected community outlets like Route One Fun.
About the author:
Maxine is a member of Lakeland Community Heritage Project, whose mission is to preserve and share the history and heritage of Lakeland, the historic African American community of College Park. She says “My roots are in Lakeland. My father was born in the family home which once stood on the site of College Park Community Center on Pierce Avenue. His great grandmother and many other relatives lived in the community.” She is a former College Park City Council member and graduate of University of Maryland College Park (B.A.) and Bowie State University (M.A.).
Share the Good Word
If you enjoyed reading this story about Lakeland, won’t you please share this post with a friend or neighbor? Maxine shared her words with us all because so many do not know the history of this significant African American community – and it’s important that we do. So if you’re so inclined, please share this post, comment below to let Maxine know your thoughts and be on the lookout for the next post in this series, focusing on the importance of education to the Lakeland community.
* Unless otherwise note, all photos courtesy of Maxine Gross.