Historical marker to be dedicated

Published 10:08 pm Monday, August 29, 2016

A state historical marker issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources will be dedicated this weekend in Suffolk.

The marker will commemorate Booker T. Washington School, which served black students in grades 1 through 8 when it first opened in 1913.

The dedication ceremony begins at 10 a.m., Saturday, at the marker’s location on Smith Street.

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The ceremony will feature remarks from school alumni, including John L. Boone (1953), Clarence Johnson (1956), Carolyn Holland (1964), Julia C. Bradley (1956), Sylvia J. Turner (1959), George Richards (1940) and Larry D. Coker (1969). James Hare of the Department of Historic Resources will also speak during the ceremony.

A reception after the ceremony will be hosted by the Booker T. Washington Alumni Association at the Metropolitan Baptist Church Fellowship Hall, 125 County St.

Booker T. Washington School added a ninth-grade class during the 1920s, according to the marker. “Overcrowding prompted the construction of a larger building [in Suffolk] in 1925,” the marker reads.

The city’s black residents during the 1930s “campaigned for the addition of a senior high curriculum, and the first high school class graduated in 1937,” in the marker’s words.

By 1953, overcrowding led to the construction of a new school building at another location on Walnut Street, and in 1969 the last high school class graduated from Booker T. Washington. The building later served as a school for intermediate grades and still serves elementary grades today.

The marker was sponsored by the Booker T. Washington High School Alumni Association, which covered the costs of the sign’s manufacture. The marker was approved for installation earlier this year by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, which must authorize state historical markers.

Virginia’s historical highway marker program, which began in 1927 with the installation of the first markers along U.S. Route 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,500 official state markers, most maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, as well as by local partners in jurisdictions outside of VDOT’s authority such as Suffolk.