JISD’s Fred Douglass campus honored for its history

by Michelle Dillon michelle@thecherokeean.com
Photo by Michelle Dillon
Fred Douglass alumni, PTO members and campus administrators gather around the school’s newest historical plaque. Photo by Michelle Dillon
Fred Douglass alumni, PTO members and campus administrators gather around the school’s newest historical plaque.

Jacksonville Independent School District’s Fred Douglass Elementary students were visited by alumni of the former Fred Douglass school, as well as members of their own parent teacher organization (PTO), for a special occasion on Friday, Feb., 21.

The guests presented a plaque with information regarding the man Fred Douglass (1818-1895), for whom the school was named, as well as the former Fred Douglass School (1922-1970).

Letitia Horace, a member of the PTO, unveiled the plaque which will be hung near the school’s entryway.

It was Horace’s idea to create the plaque.

As she explained, Horace had moved away, but upon returning to Jacksonville last year, she toured the campus of Fred Douglass Elementary where her son now attends.

While walking around the school, she noticed there was “one little thing that seemed to be missing” and that was “some type of acknowledgement for you to understand why this school is named Fred Douglass.”

Horace explained that the school was named for a former Jacksonville school named Fred Douglass that existed “at a time when black and white students could not go to school together.

“Black students attended the Fred Douglass school system from elementary school all the way through high school.”

She further noted that the original Fred Douglass School was named for the man, Fredrick Douglass.

“He was actually born a slave, but educated himself at a time when it was literally illegal for black people to be educated,” Horace stated. “But, he felt so strongly about education once he became educated that he fought for other people to be educated.”

Horace worked with members of the Fred Douglass alumni and the Fred Douglass Community Development Corporation to gather information for the plaque.

Some of the language was from the marker that is included in the Lincoln Park, but the plaque also contains additional information.

During the assembly, Oscar Faye Branch Williams and Ben Johnson, both Fred Douglass class of 1969 graduates, donated books to the school as a part of the 50th anniversary of the 1969 graduating class.

As Williams explained, school was out during the anniversary celebration in July and the donation could not be made at that time.

“It was just perfect when Latitia said that they were doing the plaque and we could incorporate all that at the same time,” Williams stated.

Approximately 100 books were presented.

Flora “Chocolate” Clark, also class of 1969, traveled from her home in Mesquite to be in attendance.

“It makes me feel good,” she said. “I feel like now, we are part of history.”

Lera Whitaker, 1969 alum and Jacksonville resident, said the book donation was just one project and it was good because they loved Fred Douglass school and to allow the students to learn more of the history of the school.

Johnson said the donation was a “privilege” more than a gift.

“It’s not necessarily to be classified as a gift,” he clarified. “A gift is something that you do that you think like you can or cannot, you will or will not.

“If you feel like it’s a privilege, it’s something you should do.”