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African American schools of Allegany County

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African American schools of Allegany County, Maryland

The history of African American schools in Allegany County has not been fully researched and documented. Primary reasons for this gap in the historical record are ones created by past practices, policies, and customs that have limited the amount of information that is readily available. To overcome these challenges, researchers interested in the story of Allegany County’s African American experience must diligently research public and private resources.

The Maryland General Assembly passed a law in 1872 requiring counties to establish free public schools for black children. Until this official act, the relatively few African American children residing in Allegany County were probably not a priority for local officials and therefore did not figure prominently in educational planning. Even after school construction for the benefit of African Americans began, newspaper accounts of their establishment and subsequent student accomplishments were typically brief.

In a related way the lack of resources available to African American schools also contributed to the scant written record. Traditional school publications such as yearbooks and newspapers were not consistently offered as educational opportunities for black pupils. Furthermore, scholastic athletic competitions which made for popular reading in Cumberland newspapers (and a source of anecdotal information) were not scheduled between the local African American high school and other county schools. The columns referencing Frederick Street/Carver athletic events that did appear in print were abbreviated when compared to the more detailed coverage of the Allegany and Pennsylvania Avenue/Fort Hill High contests. Academic competitions and social events were similarly scheduled and reported. Despite these challenges it is possible to provide a summary of African American schools in Allegany County; Board of Education records, oral histories, newspaper articles, and church records are available for the historical record.

The years of exclusive black education in Allegany County spanned the 1865 – 1959 time period when land for Mary Hoye School was provided and Carver School closed. Additional African American schools included Mechanic Street in Cumberland, Lincoln in Frostburg, smaller elementary schools in Westernport and Lonaconing, and churches that provided temporary facilities.

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Dan Whetzel

This article by Dan Whetzel appeared in the May 2010 edition of The Journal of the Alleghenies and is used with permission.

The photograph of the Mechanic Street School is courtesy of Lonnie Davis.


Collection Location:
Allegany County, Maryland

African Americans, History; Allegany County (Md.), History.

Allegany County (Md.), 1890-2008

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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