Black History Month Feature: Ferdinand T. Day

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As we recognize Black History Month, we are highlighting community leaders who were part of ACPS history. Ferdinand T. Day was named a Living Legend for his role in the integration of Alexandria schools and his work in obtaining rights and opportunities for Black Alexandrians.

Just 10 years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, Day was elected to the Alexandria City School Board and became the first Black public school board chair in Virginia. Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School is named after this civil rights icon, education pioneer and trailblazer.

Day was born in 1918 in Alexandria and went to Parker-Gray School through eighth grade before continuing his secondary education in D.C. as the City of Alexandria offered no formal high school education for Black students at that time. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography and History. Unable to teach in Alexandria, because he was Black, he joined the federal government and retired from the Department of State as a Foreign Service reserve officer.

Day lamented that Alexandria was a typical southern city with problems prevalent in the deep south and worked tirelessly to affect positive change at the community and state level. His daughter, Gwen Day-Fuller, said, “He wanted to solve problems that had to do with race, gender and the color line. He always tried to work with everyone.”

Day volunteered for the NAACP and Urban League. He later served as vice chair of the Virginia State Boards of Community Colleges. In 1985, he was selected by the secretary of education to assist in the continued implementation of desegregation for higher education.

Over the years, Day received many awards for outstanding service from community groups and organizations, including the NAACP, the Northern Virginia and Washington Urban Leagues and the U.S. Department of State.