School History Sources (1866-1939)

Pictured above is a circa 1865 photograph of the Freedmen’s School in Edisto Island, South Carolina. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

A Note on Language

When you research the history of Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) during the period of 1870 to 1970, you will invariably encounter racially-charged language that is archaic and often problematic by modern standards. In particular, the primary source documents from the period use the terms “colored” and “Negro” to commonly describe students and schools. Where the following records quote directly from the primary source material, the terminology used in the document has been retained.

Reference Guide

The Vienna school for African-American children, built in 1867, was privately owned by a group of school/church trustees. After the founding of Fairfax County Public Schools in 1870, the school was folded into the public school system, but the school/church trustees retained ownership of the building. From 1870 to 1922, there was one Fairfax County Public School system, but each magisterial district and town had its own School Board. From 1870 to 1890, day-to-day operation of the school was overseen by the School Trustees of Providence District. In 1890, when the Town of Vienna incorporated, the town formed its own School Board. The trustees of this board purchased land for a new school for African-American children in 1896. In 1918, the Council of the Town of Vienna decided to abolished the Vienna School District, and the school properties in the town were transferred to the Providence District School Board. In 1922, the magisterial district school boards were abolished when the consolidated Fairfax County School Board was formed. All school properties owned by the magisterial districts were transferred to the Fairfax County School Board by blanket deed in August 1922.

Land Records

The following records can be viewed in person at the Fairfax County Circuit Court Historic Records Center.

Fairfax County Liber E-5, Folio 292 (Purchase)

September 1, 1867, O. E. Hine and Alma D. his wife, to Daniel West, George M. Brown, and Edmond Harris, Trustees of the Colored School at Vienna, Fairfax County, Virginia; for the sum of one dollar; all that parcel of land situated in the village of Vienna, being part of lot conveyed to said Hine by Lester Lloyd and wife by deed dated May 3, 1866; Beginning at a post on the Lawyers road, corner to Moses A. Cummings, thence South 55 degrees West 7 poles and 3 links with Cummings’ line to a small cedar tree, thence South 23 degrees East 2 poles and 7 links to a stake, thence North 68 degrees East 7 poles and 2 links to a cedar post on the Lawyers road, thence North 23 degrees West 3 poles and 13 links to the place of beginning, containing one eighth of an acre be the same more or less. Received, duly authenticated, and admitted to record on Oct. 5, 1885.  

Fairfax County Liber X-5, Folio 380 (Purchase)

October 21, 1896, Thomas Frey and Sarah his wife of Cincinnati, Ohio, to R. D. Leith, A. M. Lewis, and R. D. Cox, Trustees of the School District of Vienna in Fairfax County; for the sum of $75.00; a site for a colored schoolhouse, all that tract or lot of ground situated in said School District of Vienna, and bounded as follows: Beginning at a point in the Lawyer’s road at the intersection of the Malcolm road and corner to Thurston, Harper and Freeman, thence with the center of the Malcolm road South 58 degrees 13 minutes West 176 3/10 feet to a stake, corner to Whales; thence South 64 degrees 3 minutes East, 210 2/10 feet to a stake on the side of Street to colored cemetery; thence with side of said Street North 13 degrees 10 minutes East 151 9/10 feet to the center of the Lawyer’s road; thence along the center thereof North 63 degrees 22 minutes West 82 1/2 feet to the beginning, containing one-half acre of ground; and being a part of the same land conveyed to Dennis Frey by H. L. Salsbury and wife by deed dated Oct. 21, 1891, the same being recorded in Liber L, No. 5, Page 372 of the land records of said county and being bequeathed to said Thomas Frey by the said Dennis Frey by his will which is duly recorded in Will Book G, No. 2. Received, authenticated, and admitted to record on Nov. 5, 1896. 

Fairfax County Liber Z-8, Folio 63 (Blanket Deed)

August 30, 1922, The School Board of Providence District No. 1, of the County of Fairfax, Virginia, a body corporate, to the County School Board of Fairfax County, Virginia, a body corporate; Vienna Colored School: That certain lot or parcel, containing one-half an acre of ground, which was conveyed by Thomas Frey and wife, to R. D. Leith, A. M. Lewis, and R. D. Cox, Trustees of the School District of Vienna, for a site for a colored school, by deed dated October 21, 1896, recorded in Liber X, No. 5, Page 380, of the said deed books.

Fairfax County Liber K-14, Folio 583 (Sale)

September 27, 1940, the County School Board of Fairfax County, Virginia, a Body Corporate, to August Beuchert; Whereas, by an order entered by the Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Virginia, at its January Term, 1940, the party of the first part was authorized and empowered to make sale at public auction of the hereinafter described real estate, for cash… and Whereas, the part of the first part, pursuant to said order, and in strict accordance with the terms and conditions thereof, advertised said property for sale at public auction, and on May 24, 1940, on the premises, the highest bid received therefor was a bid made by Gladys S. Barney, of $450.00, which bid, at a regular meeting of the County School Board of Fairfax County, Virginia, on June 18, 1940, was not approved by said Board, as the said Board did not deem this bid to be a fair one for said property, and that subsequent thereto a number of private offers were received for said property by said Board and on, to-wit: September 3, 1940, a private offer was received by said Board from H. Kadan, acting as agent for August Beuchert, of $800.00, cash, this being the highest bid received by said Board for said property; Whereas, at the regular meeting of said Board held on September 3, 1940, the said offer of $800.00 cash was approved by said Board; and Whereas, on September 27, 1940, said bid was reported to the said Court, which, by an order entered on that date, confirmed the said sale to August Beuchert, at the price of $800.00, and decreed the sale of the said land to the party of the second part, and directed the party of the first part to execute and deliver a deed conveying the said land to the party of the second part; The party of the first part… does now hereby, with Special Warranty of Title, grant, bargain, sell and convey unto the party of the second part, all of that certain lot or parcel of land containing one-half acre, known as the Old Vienna Colored School property, and being the same land which was conveyed to the part of the first part by the School Board of Providence District No. 1, by a deed dated August 30, 1922, and recorded in Liber Z, No. 8, Page 63, of the land records of Fairfax County, Virginia.

School Board Minutes

Providence District School Board

August 30, 1916: Board met at the Metropolitan Bank Building in Washington, D.C. The Vienna Board was anxious to make some arrangement with the Providence District Board with respect to the colored children who lived in Providence District but attended school in Vienna.  It would require two teachers to take care of the children from Providence and those in the corporate limits. The Providence Board agreed to pay the Vienna School Board $35 per month to hire an additional teacher for the 1916-1917 school year provided the town provide classroom space.

December 19, 1916: The Board ordered the salary of the colored school teacher at Vienna be paid at a rate of $35 per month in pursuance of agreement with the Vienna Board.

January 21, 1918: The Board considered the movement of citizens of Vienna to abolish the Vienna School District, but took no action in the matter.

February 1, 1918: Receipt of communication from School Board of Vienna regarding annulment of the town's charter.

February 25, 1918: The Board is in favor of legislation authorizing the town of Vienna to enter into arrangement with this Board for taking over the public schools of Vienna and thereafter operating the schools as a part of this District. A lengthy resolution is added to the minutes. One paragraph of note: The Council of the Town of Vienna has agreed to transfer to Providence District School Board certain school properties, to wit: Five acres, more or less, with improvements of two school buildings now in use for the white schools and one acre, more or less, with improvements of one building, now in use for the colored schools, together with all furnishings therein as of June 30, 1918.

Fairfax County School Board

October 19, 1922: The Board paid $28.00 in rent to the trustee of the Odd Fellows Hall at Vienna for school purposes during 1921-1922. Payment of a similar bill for the year of 1920-1921 was deferred until an investigation of the records of the old Board could be made in order to ascertain whether this had ever been paid for that year.

January 5, 1923: The Board paid $28.00 in rent to William A. West for rent of the Odd Fellows Hall for the Vienna Colored School.

July 5, 1923: Mr. Williams [Herbert F. Williams, Providence District Representative on the School Board] was authorized to see after the moving of the Vienna temporary buildings to lot at the colored school.

July 30, 1923: Mr. Williams was authorized to have the temporary school building removed from the lot of the white school at Vienna to that of the colored.

August 17, 1923: Bids for the removal of the temporary building on the school lot of the white school to that of the colored lot in Vienna were opened. These bids were from Mr. R. V. Grayson, one bid to move the building to a concrete foundation for $1,295, and the other to a post foundation for $936. Both bids were considered excessive and therefore rejected.

September 5, 1923: The temporary building was allowed to stand on its present site at Vienna, as all bids to move it had been rejected.

July 29, 1924: The Clerk was also requested to advertise for bids for the removal of the temporary school building on the grounds of the white school to the grounds of the colored school in the town of Vienna.

August 19, 1924: Mr. O. A. Wright’s bid of $700 to move the temporary two-room building at Vienna to the colored school lot was accepted. The Board approved on condition that the bidder secure the necessary permits, money to be payable as soon as the building was moved and set in place.

November 6, 1924: Relative to school facilities for the colored children at East Woodford, Providence Heights and Cartersville, Mr. Williams offered the following motion concerning the children of East Woodford and Providence Heights: that transportation be provided to Vienna over the Washington and Virginia Trolley line for colored children at East Woodford and Providence Heights not living within two miles of any established school. The motion carried.

December 5, 1925: In the matter of paying transportation from Hunter to Vienna for several colored children, Mr. Williams very strongly urged that no exception be made, that every child, white or black should have transportation allowed, if convenient to such service. This was not endorsed by the Board as a whole, however, the Board voted to provide transportation of the Hunter colored children to Vienna provided they lived beyond the two-mile limit of an established school.

October 6, 1932: The Superintendent stated that the colored people of Vienna were requesting that high school work be offered in the Vienna School. No action was taken.

Photograph of a document bearing Louise Archer’s signature.
Pictured above is a letter from Principal Louise Archer and other prominent African-American educators to the School Board in May 1932, requesting the introduction of the eighth grade for African-American children in FCPS.

December 6, 1932: A petition was presented signed by nine colored people requesting the Board to pay transportation for the 19 colored children from East Woodford community to Vienna. The Board declined to take action.

October 16, 1933: New information was presented by the State relative to the construction of school buildings under the Recovery Act. It was necessary for the Board to put forward all possible school construction projects under consideration for a five-year period ending in 1938, and make it a full and complete list, before forwarding it to the State Department of Education:  Vienna Colored; New building, four rooms, frame; Date Needed: 1936; Estimated Cost: $6,000.

May 1, 1934: The Clerk presented the list of school properties insured with the Independent Mutual Insurance Company and rates. These were accepted by the Board for a one-year term: Vienna Colored; Building: $2,000; Contents: $400; Premium: $14.40.

August 5, 1935: When the Board reconvened, it found a large delegation of colored people from all sections of the County all in the Board Room. Ollie Tinner, spokesman for the committee on education of the Fairfax County Colored Citizens Association, was heard recommending and requesting the following: Chesterbrook Colored: Requested that since the Board does not own the building in which school is held at this place that a new lot be purchased and a new building constructed unless pupils of this community were transported to Vienna. He recommended the latter action.  Odrick’s Colored: He recommended the consolidation of this school with Vienna and should this not be done that a new and larger tract of land be secured and a new building constructed thereon. Vienna Colored: He recommended that a new and larger lot be purchased and that at least a four-room school be built thereon and should Odricks and Chesterbrook be transported to Vienna, this building be made larger than four rooms. As a general comment through his presentation, Ollie Tinner expressed opposition to one-room schools stating that sufficient work could not be done in such plants.

February 5, 1937: A letter was presented from Mrs. Bernice Ellis, Secretary, Colored School League, Vienna, Virginia, urging that the school term of the Negro schools be increased, salaries of Negro teachers be increased, and that a better school building be provided for Negro children at Vienna. The Clerk wrote to her to advise her that the 1937-38 budget included funds for a salary increase for Negro teachers, but that it was too late in the budget process to have a longer school term. Also, that it was taking all their funds to add classrooms in parts of the county that were more crowded than Vienna and the Board had to postpone building there at this time.

February 18, 1938: The Fairfax County Colored Citizens’ Association wrote a letter asking that the Board take into consideration the following immediate needs in the Colored schools in the County, and that the same be incorporated into the school budget for 1938-1939… New 4 room school – Vienna (Urgent).

March 7, 1938: The Vienna Colored School League Chairman wrote to inform the Board that they were looking at sites for a new school for this community and found two that were very desirable. The association would proceed to raise funds to purchase whichever tract of land the Board approved. The Board postponed consideration of the matter.

April 5, 1938: Representatives of the Vienna Colored School League spoke that the league was considering the purchase of a new school site. They wished to know that if the community provided a suitable school site, would the Board erect a school. The matter was discussed and the Board was willing to construct a school as soon as it was able. A committee was appointed to view the proposed sites.

July 5, 1938: Mrs. Finks [Mildred L. Finks, Mount Vernon District Representative on the School Board] moved that in addition to school building additions for which Literary Loans had been approved, though construction not yet started, that the Board proceed to construct new schools and additions as follows, provided money may be made available: Vienna Elementary Negro - $6,000.

October 26, 1938: The Clerk presented the following letter from Mrs. Florence Jodzies, Secretary of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce. “At a public meeting of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce attended not only by members of the Chamber but by many citizens from various sections of the county… the following resolution was unanimously passed… Whereas it is the sense of the citizens assembled in this meeting following a report given by the Education Committee of the Chamber to the Board of Directors with their approval that the Educational Policy as regards the Colored schools of Fairfax County should be one of consolidation into larger units after the pattern of the white schools, rather than the construction of small local buildings… When the Negro school buildings in Vienna, Gum Springs and Merrifield are erected under the present building program, they may be a part of larger school units which may be added to these new buildings after the policy of consolidation is put into effect.” The Board discussed the matter for some time but took no action.

January 1, 1939: The Superintendent got the school building inspector for the Board, one of the Board’s mechanics, and a workman with a P.W.A. [the Federal Government’s Public Works Administration] card and went to the sites of the proposed new buildings and additions at Fairview, Burke, Herndon, Dunn Loring, Gum Spring, Vienna Negro and Merrifield Negro, where they drove stakes in the ground and dug some bushes and by so doing started a Force Account under the P.W.A. on these projects and reported through Mr. Long that all projects had been started.

January 5, 1939: Superintendent Woodson was working with Board member Mr. W. T. Carrico [the Falls Church District Representative] and Raymond Long, state architect, to draft a change of scope in connection with the P.W.A. docket as requested by the Board on Oct. 28, 1938. He presented a breakdown of proposed changes which included: Preliminary Expense – Cost of Land for Sites - $100.00 for Vienna Negro. Construction Costs – Vienna Negro (estimated) - $5,900.00.

June 5, 1939: A letter was presented from Mrs. Louise R. Archer, Principal of the Vienna Colored School, setting out her philosophy of education and the needs of children and requesting that in order that these needs may be better met in the Vienna community that the Board undertake to move the two portable rooms from the old school at Vienna to the new Vienna Colored School site which rooms might be used for serving hot lunches, for manual arts, etc. The Board complimented Mrs. Archer on her thoughts expressed in this letter and suggested that Mr. Carrico study this proposal as to its feasibility and cost.

June 4, 1940: The Clerk reported that pursuant to directions or the Court and instructions of this Board the discontinued Negro school properties at Vienna and Gum Spring were offered for sale at public auction on the premises on Friday, May 24. The highest bid offered for the Vienna Negro School was that of Mrs. Gladys S. Barney of Vienna in the amount of $450.00; a deposit of $50.00 was taken on this bid and had been deposited in the School Operating Fund. Mr. Williams, trustee for Providence District, stated that he felt this bid was too low. It was the expressed sense of the Board that action be postponed.

September 3, 1940: The bid of Mr. H. Kadan in the amount of $800 for the old Vienna colored school property was accepted and the Commonwealth’s Attorney was requested to ask the Court’s approval of this sale and prepare a deed to transfer the property.