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African-American students in Charles County were often denied basic materials like wood to heat the schools or had difficulty getting them from the school system.

"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 your books?"
Mr. Parks:
"Yes." 

And Mr. Parks bought some more dirty books.

Mrs. Bertha Key: "They’d been used?"
Mr. Parks:
"Yeah."
  

So I went down, I said Mr. Gwynn, 

Mrs. Bertha Key: "these books are terrible, where is he getting them from."
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 them."

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 hand-me-down.

"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

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Last updated on:07/20/03
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