Sunday, April 29, 2012

Two Twelve and a Half


Two Twelve and a Half refers to the Delaware Department of Education school number for the Delmar Colored School, #212 ½. The White Delmar School was number 163. The Delmar Colored School operated from 1922 to 1965 teaching grades 1 to 8 originally, and in the 1955/56 school year cutting back to grades 1 to 6. It was located outside of the Delmar Town Limits on West Jewell Street in the section of Delmar known as Frogtown. A photo of it in 1941 is shown below.

Environmentally it must have been difficult for the students and teacher. The land is low in that area and subject to water standing and attracts snakes, frogs and other creatures. Behind the School house in the 1920's was a slaughter house. Later the town dump would be put in brick hole (over by the VFW) which drew rats galore. It was a commercial area and was but three blocks from the railroad tracks and train yard. It looks like, in the 1941 picture, the street was still dirt, but it did have a sidewalk. I was told the reason for sidewalks on West Jewell was because of the existence of the school.

I will not dwell on school conditions for colored students prior to the 1920’s, however in 1918 Pierre duPont funded the Service Citizens of Delaware to assimilate immigrants and naturalized American citizens, including the improvement of schools for Colored students. The group lobbied for a new school code to establish equal tax rates and dispersal of revenue.

DuPont established the Delaware Auxiliary Association to oversee the construction of new schools . Ultimately, 91 duPont schools were built or improved in Colored settlements between 1922-1925.

The Delaware Auxiliary Association hired architect James Oscar Betelle, who based his school designs on educational reform ideas of the period. Betelle’s plans were cottage-like buildings designed with gable roofs, and clad in shingles or clapboard. Architectural details included porticos with pediments supported by columns. Large banks of wide sash windows capitalized on light and ventilation. Interiors ranged from one to three rooms with moveable furniture for realization of reform teaching and learning practices.

Between 1919 and 1940, Pierre S. DuPont donated more than $6,000,000 to modernize the Delaware Public Schools. Most of these funds were directed towards Colored schools with the vast majority of expenditures being devoted to school construction. One of schools built by DuPont was the Delmar Colored School Two Twelve and a half.

In 1941 the Delmar Colored school built by Mr. DuPont was described in an insurance evaluation as being; a one and a half story, no basement, frame shingle one classroom school building, peaked wood shingle roof, interior finish wood lath and plaster walls and ceiling, wood floor, trim and door, heat is furnished by a drum stove. No electric lights and desk and seat were unattached. It had a total cubic feet of 29,633. In 1941 the depreciated insured value was $4,700.

The first school teacher was Mrs. Dillard A. Ethridge. Mrs. Ethridge was born in South Carolina about 1891 and was the widow of a Baptist Preacher, George H. Ethridge. She had no children. Altho it made little difference in that time period, the 1920 census indicated Mrs. Ethridge was a mulatto as opposed to being classified as negro. She was paid $30 a month. White teachers at the White Delmar School #163 were paid $35 a month. She taught grades 1 thru 8.

The Colored School Trustees were mostly blue collar workers. Many worked for the railroad as rail car cleaners, laborers or track walkers. In the 1921/22 school year, the school was being built so there was no teacher. The trustees were William G. Price, George H. Williams and William H. Horsey. In the school year 1922/23 the trustees were William G. Price, George H. Williams. In the school year 1923/24 the trustees were William G. Price, Isaac West, and J. W. Crippen.

Needless to say the people in the Delmar Colored School District were very proud of their school and thanked Mr. DuPont in many letters to him. As it does today, the pride in the school bought the Colored Community closer together. An example of these letters follows;

My Dear Mr. DuPont,
I am appreciating our nice school building you gave us. And I do not want to do anything to desecrate the soil of America. We are selling candy to get a dodge ball and a football to play with…. I hope you could come and see our nice school building. We have a store in our school since we wrote to you last year and are writing to you again this year.
Pearl Smiley, Delmar, Delaware, Oct. 27, 1925

Pearl was the daughter of George and May Smiley. She was born about 1917.

We are going to have a test in History and I am working very hard so that I can get a hundred…. Mr. Dupont we are having a new Classroom Leader every Monday morning we have elections and vote and now we are getting up a Jubiline Club for the Fifth, Sixth, and Eight grade…. We are going to have an entertainment Friday the 24th, we are going to have a fine time and than after the speaking we are going to have refreshments to sell. Mr. Dupont we have health rules on the board and we two ladders on the board the girls has the red one and the boys has the green one the first thing we have every morning is hear the Victrolia play, the second is to pledge allegance to the flag, it is up on the wall.
Elizabeth Dembry, 5th grade, Delmar, Delaware, October 21, 1924

Mr. DuPont we have nice library in our school and a model store, so we want you to come and see how good we have it kept it. We have also had our flag fixed, we hoist it every morning at sunrise and lower it at sunset. If it rains during our school hours we always take it down, but we never let it touch the ground, get wet or stay out after sunset.
Elizabeth Dembry, Delmar, Delaware, Oct. 27, 1925

Elizabeth Demby was the daughter of George E. and May Demby. She was born about 1915.

So school life in Delmar continued it sleepy path until 1954.

In 1952 following a lawsuit by mothers Ethel Belton and Sarah Bulah for their children to attend white schools in New Castle County Delaware, Judge Collins Seitz, ruled that black schools were offering far less to children than the white schools - a violation of the "separate but equal" doctrine enshrined in the Supreme Court's 1896 decision Plessy v. Ferguson.

Seitz ordered desegregation - "the first judge in the nation to order minority children admitted to public schools" for whites only, according to Schwartz, the federal judge.

The state appealed to the Delaware Supreme Court, lost, then battled on to the U.S. Supreme Court. There, the case was joined to other segregation suits from Kansas, Virginia, South Carolina and Washington, D.C., and put under one name: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that all segregation in public schools is “inherently unequal” and that all blacks barred from attending public schools with white pupils are denied equal protection of the law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The doctrine was extended to state-supported colleges and universities in 1956. Meanwhile, in 1955 the court implemented its 1954 opinion by declaring that the federal district courts would have jurisdiction over lawsuits to enforce the desegregation decision and asked that desegregation proceed “with all deliberate speed.”

This in turn caused the Milford School Desegregation Crisis of 1954 when Milford High School attempted to integrate. In Milford there were cross burnings, school boycotts, and Bryant Bowles, President of the national association for the advancement of White People. Delaware and Milford gained national attention.

Even with Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka ruling, Delaware did not rush to carry out the Court’s will. Only in 1961, after African American parents sued for enforcement, did the state begin phasing out its designated-black schools. That process took six years.

And in 1965 the Delmar Colored School #212 ½ and Owen’s Corner Color School #213 were consolidated into Delmar School #163. It was time for it to happen altho neither Whites nor Blacks were pleased about it. One Black woman told me "in the Black school I was someone, when I was moved to the White school I knew I would never be elected to any class office or honor.”

There was an adjustment period for both white’s and blacks. When it came time for the Owen Corner (Mt Nebo) students to be bused to Delmar there was two cross burnings opposite the Owen Corner school.

The 1964/65 School trustees for the Delmar Colored school 212 ½ were Samuel Bynum, Sr, Andrew Marshall, Sr, Fred W. Nichols, Sr and William Horsey. The final school teacher was Rothert C. Blunt who taught grades 1 to 6.

Other teachers at the school 212 ½ were Mary A. Douglas (1938 -1959), Viola Maloy (1960), Ruth Lewis ( 1935- 1937 ), and E. Rebekah Ross (1933-1934).

Other School trustees over the years beside those previously mentioned were; W.H. Wallace, Isaac West, William Wailes, George H. Williams, Vernon E. Hearn, Virgil West, Herbert N. Maxfield, Herman Duffy, William H. Horsey, Robert Sturgis, Levin Horsey, Arthur Williams, Robert Bynum, Edward Green, Ada Williams, Matthew S. Kenney, Russell Horsey, Mervin Williams, Richard Hudson, Joseph Duffy, William DeShield, Richardson Hudson, Robert Allen, William Truitt, Fred Mitchell, and Granville Eugene Hearn,

Photo of area today where school was is below

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