FRONT ROYAL – Warren County Middle School invited members of the community to an assembly on Friday for a celebration in honor of Black History Month.
“The most precious resource that we have in our community is the people,” said Zach Logan, a history teacher at the school. “African-Americans have served alongside whites through our every endeavor, and with distinction.”
Lilian Sloane, who was a teacher in Warren County for 32 years, was the guest speaker for the event. Sloane spoke to the students about growing up in Warren and Fauquier counties, and her experiences in a segregated school system.
“When I graduated from the seventh grade, there was only one other person in my class,” she said. “There were no high schools to attend.”
Sloane said that her mother was able to get her into Manassas Regional High School, a school that served black students in Warren, Fauquier, Prince William, and Fairfax counties.
“I lived in a girls dormitory,” she said. “I had to work in the dining room and kitchen to help pay my tuition.”
The assembly also recognized the group of students who helped lead the way in getting Warren County High School integrated in 1959. The 60th anniversary of the high school’s integration is Monday.
The Rev. James Kilby was one of the guests at the assembly.
“It was good to witness all of the kids here,” Kilby said. “When I was their age, I wasn’t able to go to a mixed school. It means a lot. It shows improvement.”
Kilby recalled a time after the integration that he couldn’t even go to the bathroom without dealing with race issues.
“On my first trip to the restroom, when I went in, there were four white boys there, and wanted to beat me up and intimidate me,” he said. “I had to leave and go get some friends to go in with me. I found two of them, so it was three of us against four of them, and they were smart enough to leave.”
Logan said he thought that the subject of the assembly will stick with the students in attendance.
“It’s rare that students sit still and quietly for that long, so I’d say that’s a pretty good indicator that it was effective and meaningful,” he said. “It was so moving to see people of all ages and all walks of life from the community to come here today,” he said. “I think that helped convey the importance to the students.”
Logan said that it was important for students to learn about this time in history.
“I think maintaining the progress requires continued effort, and there’s a risk that if African-American history is not continually recognized, folks might think that the past isn’t as relevant as it is,” he said.