African-American Contributions in St. Mary's County UNIFIED COMMITTEE FOR
AFRO-AMERICAN CONTRIBUTIONS
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Agriculture Shop at Banneker School, 1940

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Banneker School

Banneker School, 1938
Banneker School, 1938; Courtesy Banneker Alumni Association.

Banneker School represents the outgrowth of a long effort of the black community to secure a school for their race in the northern end of St. Mary's County. The first step was recorded on March 28, 1896, when a group of eight citizens formed a corporation to be known as the "St. Mary's Colored High School."

Directors of the corporation for the first year:
          James H. Brown, President
          William L. Clark, Vice President
          George Green, Recording Secretary
          George H. Bankins, Corresponding Secretary
          William F. Hall, Treasurer

In 1923, records show the incorporation of an education institution called The Central Colored Industrial School. James H. Stewart, Thomas A. Mack, William B. Thompson, William L. Clarke, and T. Herbert Blackiston comprised the board of directors of this group. The stated purpose of the corporation was the "education of Colored youths where they may be taught the usual branches of a sound English education and receive instruction and practical training in agriculture, industrial, and mechanical pursuits."1 The efforts of this group resulted in the founding of Banneker School.

United Parent Teachers Association, ca. 1925
United Parent Trustee Association, ca.1925; Courtesy of Catherine Thompson Known Member's of the United Parents Trustee Association: Sam Bankins, James Bush, Herbert Blackistone, Mr. & Mrs. Abraham Butler, Charles Butler, William Clarke, Clem Dyson, John Frederick, Joseph Handy, Scanalon Herbert, Jarrard Jameson, Thomas Mack, Daniel Morgan, John Shelton, Benny Smith, Dave Smith, Deli Somerville, John T. Somerville, James H. Stewart, Frankie Swales, William B. Thompson, Stephen Young.

The school first operated in an old farmhouse. Parents formed a group called the United Parent Trustee Association (UPTA) and pooled their energies and resources to make the school a success. The student body was drawn from all parts of the county. Those children not within commuting distance boarded with families in the Loveville area. The UPTA bore the expense of buying and operating school buses; the group's 1925 appeal to the St. Mary's County Board of Education to take over the financial burden for buses was refused. In 1929, the County Board of Education agreed to receive the property on Route 5 north of Leonardtown known as Bucks Park or the Industrial School Property. On April 8, 1930, the Central Colored Industrial School, operating under the UPTA name, transferred title of the 72-acre parcel to the Board of Education of St. Mary's County for the sum of one dollar.


Teacher Ralph Butler with 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classes, Banneker School 1949
Courtesy of the Butler family.

In 1932 two rooms were added to the school; these rooms were designed as space for a high school. However, the high school still did not materialize, and the black students of the county who desired a high school education continued to attend Pomonkey High School in Charles County, boarding in that area during the week and returning to St. Mary's County for the weekends. Finally, in 1934, Banneker High School began operation with Mr. James O. Wright and Miss Henderson the first teachers. The first graduation took place in 1937. Dorothy Somerville Thomas and Theresa Parker Carter were the first graduates. Banneker School continued as a combination elementary and high school for blacks until integration of St. Mary's County schools resulted in its becoming exclusively elementary.2


1 St. Mary's County Corporations Record, JAC1/42, in Regina Combs Hammett, History of St. Mary's County, Maryland 1634-1990, 1991 p. 325.
2 Hammett, p. 325.



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