Smithville Colored School (1928- 1940)
The Smithville Colored School, was one of the fifteen African American schools, built in Montgomery County, which was funded through the, Julian Rosenwald Fund. This school was built near Colesville, Maryland. The Smithville Colored School was constructed in 1928. Instruction, for African American students, began shortly after that. Before this school building was built, the community struggled to keep schools for African American children open. After many endeavors, the Montgomery County School Board purchased a site from Charles L. Johnson. The school building was open for little over 10 years before the school was closed down.
Backstory and Context
Funding for African American school buildings was not considered appropriate until about the 1870s. Before there were actual school buildings, African American students started meeting in community churches, in the 1860s. The first African American school building, that was built in Colesville, Maryland, was the Colesville Colored School. This school was built in 1876. This school was closed due to inadequate funding, and these students were moved to an empty room at Spencerville, by 1914. Seven years later, African American residents, of Colesville start to request for a new school building near Smithville. This request was denied due to other financial needs in communities. Another request was submitted in July of 1927, to the Montgomery County School Board. By September of 1927, the site for Smithville Colored School was purchase from Charles L. Johnson for $700. Construction took place in 1928, with the help of the Rosenwald Fund, the community, and the Montgomery County School Board. The Rosenwald Fund was created by Julius Rosenwald. Rosenwald was a philanthropist who provide financial aid for African American education and health care. Rosenwald partnered with Booker T. Washington, and with the support of each other, they built schools all over the South.
Smithville Colored School included to two different buildings for students. The building on the east was a one story, six bay building. The east building was for actual classroom instruction. The west building was also a one story, six bay building, but this ended up being used for vocational instruction. The designs of these buildings were very simple due to the lack of funding. The two buildings have a side-gable roof. There only difference is, is the east building as an asphalt roof, and the west building as standing-seam metal roof.
This two, multiple purpose buildings, included grades one through seven. By 1939, African American boys began vocational training. They started the boys at a young age with vocational training. The African American boys, at Smithville Colored School, learned carpentry and gardening. This two, multiple purpose buildings, included grades one through seven. Smithville Colored School housed 135 students by 1939-1940. Most African Americans did not get a high school education, but if they did, they would had to travel to nearby Colored High Schools.
The Montgomery County Board of Education started to combine African American schools. This happened towards the end of the 1940s. Smithville students, once again, had to travel to other areas to receive an education. The Smithville Colored School became a place for recreational use. Over the summer of 1948, the two buildings were used for a summer recreation program. This was set up by the Maryland Parks and Planning Commission. Today, the local Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity have renovated the buildings. In 1999, Alpha Phi Alpha purchase the building for $10, from the county. They turned the old school buildings into a meeting place, and computer center. They made it a place for people to learn the history of blacks and whites being educated separately. The fraternity even brought back some of the students that attended Smithville Colored School, once the restoration was completed. These two buildings may not look historic, but they are symbols of power, strength, and perseverance to fight for what they believed in.
Ly, Phuong. New Chapter for an Emblem of Exclusion. Washington Post. February 17, 2005. Accessed October 29, 2017. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A29637-2005Feb16.html.
Maryland Historical Trust Addendum Sheet. December 03, 2003. Accessed October 29, 2017. https://mht.maryland.gov/secure/medusa/PDF/Montgomery/M;%2033-24.pdf.