Virginia State Seal

Virginia Department of Historic Resources

State Historical Highway Marker “Booker T. Washington High School” Dedication, Saturday in Norfolk (Feb. 2019)

Department of Historic Resources
(www.dhr.virginia.gov)
For Immediate Release
February 21, 2019

Contact: Randy Jones, DHR
Randy.jones@dhr.virginia.gov
540-578-3031

Booker T. Washington High School traces back to one of Virginia’s first accredited public high schools for African Americans; it served as Norfolk’s only public high school for black students for decades

The marker text is reproduced below

 RICHMOND – A state historical marker issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources will be dedicated this Saturday, February 23, that recalls the 20th-century history of Booker T. Washington High School, which also served for decades as Norfolk’s only public high school for African American students.

The marker will be dedicated during a ceremony beginning at 11 a.m., Saturday, at the current Booker T. Washington High School, located at 1111 Park Avenue, Norfolk, where the marker is installed. The ceremony is open to the public.

Event speakers will include The Reverend Wayne Credle of First Shiloh Baptist Church, Mechanicsville; Glynis Mason, PTA President of Booker T. Washington High School; Dr. Vivian Hester and Josette Walker, president and vice-president respectively of Concerned Citizens Booker T. Washington High School; Dr. Melinda Boone, Superintendent, Norfolk Public Schools; Dr. Noelle M. Gabriel, Chair, Norfolk School Board; Dr. Margarietta Stallings, Principal, Booker T. Washington High School; Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander; and Dr. Colita Nichols Fairfax, of Norfolk State University and vice-chairman of the Virginia Board of Historic Resources.

Other contributions during the event will be provided by the Booker T. Washington High School Choir and Alumni Choir, dancer Ahziyah Corprew, Malcolm Avery, President, TW Friends and Alumni Foundation, and Lula Sears Rogers.

Known initially as John T. West High School, one of Virginia’s “first accredited public high schools for African Americans,” according to the state marker, Booker T. Washington High School was so named in 1917.

In 1924 the school moved to a newly constructed building and, as Norfolk’s only high school for black students, “Its programs were central to the community,” the marker reads.

The school’s faculty and students also played important roles in pushing for civil rights. “In 1939-1940, faculty members Aline Black and Melvin Alston pursued legal action that led to a federal court decision requiring salary equalization for black and white teachers,” in the words of the marker. “In Sept. 1963, students marched to protest poor facilities,” the marker reads.

After Norfolk implemented its school desegregation plan in 1970, Booker T. Washington High School relocated to a new building, constructed in 1974.

The “Booker T. Washington High School” marker was approved for manufacture and installation in September 2018 by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, which has the authority to designate new historical markers. The marker’s cost was covered by its sponsor, Concerned Citizens Booker T. Washington High School.

Virginia’s historical highway marker program, which began in 1927 with the installation of the first historical markers along U.S. Route 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,600 official state markers, most maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, and by local partners in jurisdictions outside of VDOT’s authority such as Norfolk.

[PLEASE NOTE: DHR markers are erected not to “honor” their subjects but rather to educate and inform the public about a person, place, or event of regional, state, or national importance. In this regard, markers are not memorials.]

Text of marker:

Booker T. Washington High School

John T. West High School, one of Virginia’s first accredited public high schools for African Americans, was renamed in 1917 for Booker T. Washington, educator, author, and orator. The school moved to a newly constructed building in 1924 and for decades was Norfolk’s only public high school for black students. Its programs were central to the community. In 1939-1940, faculty members Aline Black and Melvin Alston pursued legal action that led to a federal court decision requiring salary equalization for black and white teachers. In Sept. 1963, students marched to protest poor facilities. Norfolk implemented a desegregation plan in 1970, and the school moved into a new building here in 1974.

# # #

Updated June 21, 2019