In this second post about Lakeland, the historical African American community of College Park, Maxine Gross shares her personal insights on Lakelanders’ commitment to education and their efforts to see their children educated in their own community.
Education & Lakeland: The Key to Success
Lakeland’s elders said education was the key to success – so they worked and fought to see their children educated in their community. Schools for African Americans were not a priority for local governments. If they were to have schools, African American communities had to build their own.
Lakeland’s First Elementary School
Lakelanders built the community’s first school – a one room elementary school – in 1903. The building was replaced with a two-room structure in 1917.
Lakeland & The Rosenwald Fund
Julius Rosenwald – a Sears Roebuck partner – learned about the poor state of schools for African Americans from educator and activist Booker T. Washington. Rosenwald was convinced that schooling was the way to give African Americans the tools to help themselves. Through Washington’s encouragement, he set up a fund which helped build about 5,000 schools throughout the southern United States.
The fund required contributions for each building from both the African American community it would serve and local governments. Two of those schools were in Lakeland: Lakeland Elementary and Lakeland High School.
New Lakeland Elementary School
In 1925, a new modern Lakeland Elementary School was built by Lakelanders’ and the County with help from the Rosenwald Fund.
These buildings were all on the site of Lake Artemesia Natural Area.
Lakeland Community High School
In 1928, through the work of Lakelanders, members of neighboring communities and the Rosenwald Fund, Lakeland High School was built on 54th Avenue.
It served the children of Lakeland and teens from northern Prince Georges County until 1950. The building was later used as an elementary/ junior high, elementary school and special education center.
That building is now home to the Washington Brazilian Seventh Day Adventist congregation.
Segregation & College Park
Excerpt from Lakeland, African Americans in College Park: “For most of a century, only African American students attended school in Lakeland. In 1956, two years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional, the Prince George’s County Board of Education enacted a plan to impede the integration of schools.
The first white students did not attend Lakeland Elementary School until the late 1960s. They were few in number.
Nevertheless, desegregation progressed intermittently until court-ordered programs began in 1973.
Lakeland Homes Lost with the Redrawing of School Boundaries
In the 1970s, Lakelanders proved how important schools were to them. When the County [redrew school boundaries and] decided to close Lakeland Elementary school, Lakelanders fought to have the new, fully integrated school in Lakeland. They stuck to that commitment even when the school board told them the only good place to build was where Lakelanders’ homes stood. One of those homes belonged to my grandparents. When she talked about it my grandmother said she could build another house. Children should be educated in their own community.
Paint Branch Elementary School
Excerpt from Lakeland, African Americans in College Park: “Paint Branch Elementary School opened in 1972 as an integrated elementary school with students from Lakeland and neighboring communities, the result of activism of Lakelanders and other local residents.”
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 Lakeland and the University of Maryland.
* Unless otherwise note, all photos courtesy of Maxine Gross and the Lakeland Community Heritage Project.
Learn More About Lakeland
Read our first post about Lakeland: Historic African American Community of College Park.
Buy a copy of Lakeland: African Americans in College Park.