Former Stratford student to speak at New Market library

Ron Deskins

EDINBURG — When a group of four 12-year-old students entered the doors of Arlington’s Stratford Junior High School in February 1959, they became the African Americans in Virginia to begin classes at an integrated public school.

Ron Deskins, 67, one of the four seventh-graders from that group, will share his experiences of that historic day at the New Market Area Library later this month.

His presentation at 3 p.m. Jan. 10 will recount what happened as Stratford Junior High School — now H-B Woodlawn High School — allowed African American students in for the first time, and what led up to the momentous event.

Deskins had previously attended Hoffman-Boston, a secondary school for African Americans in Arlington County, and switched to Stratford Junior High in the middle of the 1958-1959 school year along with three others. Stratford was the first desegregated public school in Virginia by “a matter of minutes,” he said, opening earlier than a school in Norfolk also integrating that same day.

He said police officers escorted them to school that day and said dozens more stood guard as they entered the school.

“The people who were probably most frightened and who had the most courage were our parents, because I was a kid,” Deskins said. “The importance of this thing didn’t really become apparent to me until years later.”

Deskins moved to Shenandoah County in 1985 and now works as a circulation assistant at the Shenandoah County Library in Edinburg.

The program is free to attend, and no registration is required.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com