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COMMENTARY: Culpeper board ignores Black residents’ concerns
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COMMENTARY: Culpeper board ignores Black residents’ concerns

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Les Daniel talks about his multi-year effort to establish a ‘Brickway of History’ outside The Carver Center in Culpeper County. The Army veteran graduated in 1957 from the segregated school named for George Washington Carver, the famed African American botanist and inventor.

We, the board of directors of the George Washington Carver Regional High School Alumni Association (GWCRHSAA Inc.), feel compelled to write. Our ancestors have contributed our taxes, our disposable income and our discretionary time in service to the community, with little to no acknowledgement, for the last 155 years.

For the past five years, we have given $15,000 in scholarships to area students—and a total of more than $175,000 since the association’s start in 1994.

Yet it is as if we are invisible.

Until the 1960s, no Black official had been appointed or elected to local government since 1887, and there has never been a Black person on the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors. The county did not fully desegregate its schools until 1968. From 1948 to 1968, students from four counties—Culpeper, Orange, Madison and Rappahannock—were bussed to George Washington Carver Regional High School in the Rapidan area of Culpeper County.

Some things have been done without much thought or inclusive citizen input, e.g. naming a community “Lake Pelham” after a Confederate soldier from Alabama with no real attachment to Culpeper. In supporting this action, Culpeper dishonors its native people and denies the opportunity for others to honor a more worthy person or place.

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Local leaders profess not to want to change the lake’s name.

Yet they did not question the removal of the name “George Washington Carver” from our school building; they replaced it with “Piedmont Vocational School.”

Now, in preparation for the return of the school’s original name, our alumni association has raised funds for new signage to fully reflect the history of the building.

In addition, the Confederate monument on the public grounds of Culpeper’s courthouse sends a negative message and misrepresents our community. It should be relocated. The local battlefields would be eager to receive the monument, thus providing a more appropriate location for those who wish to visit the monument.

Culpeper overflows with vibrant and diverse sources of heritage, including African Americans who are, regrettably, overlooked and/or diminished.

Not all past wrongs can be corrected. But we ask for open conversation, acknowledgement of past wrongs, and evidence that our thoughts and feelings are being given consideration.

The board of directors of the

George Washington Carver

Regional High School Alumni Association, Culpeper

The Rev. Frank Lewis, chairman

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