The Edwin Washington Society is developing a digital mapping platform aimed at providing for the first time through GIS technology an understanding of how White and “colored” schools compared during the era of segregation. Our main partner on this effort is Loudoun County Public Schools.
The initial effort was a tool of the Edwin Washington Project, which has Loudoun County as its focus. It derived from the need to geolocate all of the former schoolhouses of the segregation era in the county. Locating those schools took about two years because most did not have street addresses, nor were they listed on any scale maps. We did this by interviewing former students, teachers and their relatives, examining a 1923 map developed by a former Superintendent, and also by reviewing deeds and other records in the records office of LCPS and archives of the Circuit Court of Loudoun County, as well as press reports.
The initial effort employed Googlemaps technology, so users can easily drive to each location, and 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. This was the first digital map of Loudoun’s segregated schools.
The next stage of development is being done in cooperation with Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) and will lead to 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 this critical period of segregation history, and to compare and contrast Virginia’s experiences with those of other states.
The new effort will also focus on Loudoun in order to produce a more robust platform, using software by ESRI. It will add additional layers of information over time, e.g. locations of construction styles (stone, wood, brick, etc.) bus routes, historical boundaries of Black communities, economic and health data and other features that will scholars to fully appreciate the similarities and differences between Black and White schools between 1870 and 1968. We anticipate completing this phase in 2023.
Following completion of this new phase, the plan is to offer the new platform as a model tool for other communities. All they will need 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.