Rural School Mapping Service

Data Sample from Original Digital Map

The Edwin Washington Society has been developing a digital mapping platform aimed at providing through GIS technology an understanding of how white and “colored” schools in Loudoun compared during the era of segregation. Our main partner in this effort is Loudoun County Public Schools.

The initial tool, which was developed by our Chief Cartographer Maddy Gold, has Loudoun County as its focus. It derived from the need to geolocate all of the county’s former schoolhouses built before 1968 when segregation ended. Locating those schools took about two years because most did not have street addresses, nor were they listed on any scale maps. Some are still a bit of a mystery, due to their antiquity and the lack of records. We did this work by interviewing former students, teachers and their relatives, examining a 1923 paper map developed by former Superintendent Oscar Emerick, and by reviewing deeds and other records in the records office of LCPS and archives of the Circuit Court of Loudoun County, as well as in press reports found in the Balch Library in Leesburg, Va.

The initial tool employed Googlemaps, so users can easily drive to each location, and has proved to be very popular. The digital citations also link each location to contemporary and historical photographs as well as school-specific pages on the Edwin Washington Project site that have additional information.

The next stage of development is also led by Maddy Gold and is being done in cooperation with Matthew Smith at Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS). One of his fields is geospatial science. This new product will eventually lead to a better understanding of state-wide segregation, hence it is a service of the Edwin Washington Society which looks at Loudoun within the context of state and national segregation. A strategic goal of the Society is to broaden public understanding of education throughout the state during segregation, and to compare and contrast Virginia’s experiences with those of other states. To that end, we are also in discussions with the Country School Association of America. In that case, the additional schools we might add might not be segregated.

This new effort will initially focus on Loudoun or areas around the county that serviced Loudoun students, but uses a more robust platform (ESRI software). It will also add additional layers of information over time, e.g. construction styles (stone, wood, brick, etc.) bus routes, historical boundaries of Black communities, economic and health data and other features like Rosenwald data and whether a building was a teacherage, a high school or an administrative building. We anticipate completing this phase in 2023. We are also in discussions with the Country-School Association of America to possibly merge their twenty-plus years of data on rural schools across the lower 48 states.

Following the completion of this new phase, the Society plans to offer the new platform as a model tool for other communities in Virginia with which we have worked. All they will need to do is send us their data and we will then load it for free and eventually create a state-wide version of what has been done for Loudoun.