African-American students in
Charles County were often denied basic materials like wood
to heat the schools or had difficulty getting them from the
"I had to walk about 4 miles
to school in rain, snow, ice because black children didn’t
have buses to ride to school and when I got to school my
hands and feet would be aching. We all had to gather
around the old wood stove to get warm and for our hands
and feet to thaw out. White children had buses to ride to
school and when (a) bus would pass us on the road, they
would spit out of the windows at us. Until one day we all
got switches and when they put their heads out of the
windows we would hit them with switches and that stopped
them from that. Activities included Volleyball, dodge ball
and Flag relay."
Mary L. Johnson
Pomfret Elementary, 1931
"We walked 3 and a half
miles to the colored school and after arriving there I can
recall at sometimes we would help the nuns to make the
fire. Also remember going in the lowlands and in the
forest breaking up wood, breaking up pieces of woods that
would I guess almost decayed to nothing so that we could
have kindling to make the fires."
Mary Louise Booth Webb
St. Mary’s Colored School, 1932
Even items such as and paper and
pencils for students were often in short supply. Many
teachers and parents often had to pay for supplies out of
their own pockets or be satisfied with the materials used by
white students at the other schools.
Mrs. Lena Dyson taught at Bel Alton
and at T. C. Martin Elementary schools.
Interviewer: What supplies
did the teachers have to furnish themselves, which they
shouldn’t have had to furnish?
Mrs. Dyson: Well, a whole lot of times, say for
instance paper. I'd buy paper and pencils and things like
that. The books, the school furnished the books. Sometimes
they were passed down from the other schools.
Interviewer: The white schools?
Mrs. Dyson: Yeah.
Mrs. Lena Dyson
Teacher 1925 to 1971
Bel Alton Elementary
T.C. Martin Elementary
Mrs. Bertha Key, who taught at
several elementary schools in Charles County until 1973,
refused to accept books handed down from the white schools.
"The first day when I saw
their books. I went to Mr. Gwynn about that too.
Mrs. Bertha Key: "Are these
Mr. Parks: "Yes."
And Mr. Parks bought some more dirty
Mrs. Bertha Key: "They’d been used?"
Mr. Parks: "Yeah."
So I went down, I said
Mrs. Bertha Key: "these books are terrible, where is he getting
Mr. Gwynn: "He was getting them from the white schools. And
they'd received new books."
Mrs. Bertha Key:
"Uh -uh, "I don't want em.
I don't want. They’re filthy dirty torn I can't use
He said don't worry. He sent me some new books and
Mr. Parks found out I had new books. He wanted to find out
where I got them."
Sometimes even lunch was a
"I remember one time someone
from our school was made to eat a half-eaten sandwich
complete with teeth marks. Students from our school would
go to the white school to pick up the left over lunches
and bring them back. This was one of the rare occasions
that students from the Colored School could cross the
church on the other side of the parish."
Loistine Swann Cooper
St. Mary’s Colored School
"We were also spanked when
we would not eat the lunches of the white students if we
did not have lunch."
John H. Neal
St. Mary’s Colored School
Class of 1962