To the editor:
The article reporting on the dedication of the state historical marker recently placed outside the George Washington High School addresses the dispute among members of our community about the correct year in which the Alexandria school system was integrated– 1959 or 1965. With all due respect to those advocating for the propriety of including one year or the other on the plaque, it seems to me that the more offensive language included on the historical marker is its expressly noting that “[f]or two decades this was the city’s only public high school for white students.”
Is that supposed to be a point of pride? Were white students previously unduly burdened by not having their own public high school before GW was built? What, exactly, is the point of emphasizing this particular fact? Are we also going to point out other places in our city, such as its water fountains, public restrooms, restaurants and hotels that were originally meant to be used only by white folks?
I’m not saying that this particular aspect of the marker is historically incorrect. I’m merely questioning its historical significance. Most every place of public accommodation, including our schools, was built for whites only, an aspect of our history that at once caused an indelible stain on our nation and immeasurable pain to our nation’s Black citizens.
We are still as a society paying a heavy price for that grotesque policy. I’m just not sure what is gained by underscoring it on this otherwise important historical marker.
-Roger W. Yoerges, Alexandria