Brown vs. Board: It Takes a Community to Make a Difference

They knew of the potential of this city. And they knew this city could be better. We know from history that once you achieve something, it doesn’t mean it’s done. You have to be vigilant,” said Ericka M. Miller.

Hiding at the top of the stairs, eavesdropping on her father Melvin Miller, Ericka Miller came to learn a great deal about her trailblazer father and his friends. The group, known as the Secret Seven, were resolved to end the systemic racism in Alexandria in the 1960s.

The Secret Seven were the invisible force that fought for sidewalks so children could walk to school, play areas so children could play, and for chalk, pencils and paper so that the African-American children could learn.

In this article, our final in a series to commemorate Black History Month, the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, and Alexandria’s long journey to desegregation, we turn our attention to the community activism it took to made strides towards equity in Alexandria. While the parents were careful in what they shared, their children were well aware of the dangers their fathers faced. It was only later they became aware of their impact on unravelling systemic racism in Alexandria.

ACPS has come a long way since the 1950s when its three segregated high schools schools were divided by color, largely due to neighborhood segregation. But while ACPS has evolved from a school system marred by contrasts in black and white to one with students from 114 different countries who speak 119 different languages with broad socio-economic diversity, we still have a long way to go. We also remain eternally grateful to our students who led the way and who continue to be a voice for equity in our division.

Miller warns us that complacency is not something we can afford.

It’s the responsibility of each of us to keep those memories alive. Because we know it’s too easy to slip back. I wonder if the generation to come will have that sense of history because the generation to come is yet one more generation removed from the Civil Rights Era. We know from history that once you achieve something, it doesn’t mean it’s done. You have to be vigilant,” said Miller.

Read other posts in this series:

Learn more about the history of ACPS.

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