101st Anniversary of Parker-Gray School

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The historic legacy of the Parker-Gray School in Alexandria serves as a reminder of the importance of the ACPS 2025 Strategic Plan Equity for All vision. This September, our community marks the 101st anniversary of Parker-Gray School which provided Black children the opportunity of education at a time when segregation threatened what is now recognized as a fundamental right of every child. 

Please join in the virtual celebration of the anniversary of this vital Alexandria institution at 1 p.m. on Saturday, September 11. Join us on Zoom. ACPS Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. will be one of the featured speakers. The full agenda will be shared next week.

The first public schools for Black children in the City of Alexandria were Snowden School for Boys and the Hallowell School for Girls. They were later consolidated into a co-educational school, Parker-Gray School, located on the site of the current Charles Houston Recreation Center. 

With its origins dating back to 1920, the Parker-Gray School served children in grades one through eight. Parker-Gray was named in honor of the principals of the Snowden and Hallowell schools, John Parker and Sarah Gray. The Parker-Gray school did not have all the amenities that schools for white students had. Parents and members of the community came together, though, to raise funding to provide basic materials, such as school books, chalk and chairs, clocks, waste baskets and other necessities. 

Parker-Gray expanded to include high school in the 1930s. In 1965, the last class of Parker-Gray High School graduated. With the desegregation of Alexandria’s public schools,

Parker-Gray was reassigned as a middle school which closed its doors in 1979.

The Parker-Gray School story is not about a building, though, but rather about children who overcame adversity and racism. The school produced doctors and judges, a brigadier general, the first African American NBA player and first African American chairperson of the Alexandria School Board, and many more who served as champions for equity and civil rights.

The 100th anniversary of Parker-Gray School was marked last year at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic with the unveiling of the Parker-Gray Memorial Walkway which was the vision of the Alexandria African American Hall of Fame. The walkway features the Parker-Gray Bulldog mascot and engraved bricks to honor teachers, students, families and others and is located at the main entrance of the Charles Houston Recreation Center, at what was the original site of the Parker-Gray School. 

The memorial walkway stands as a reminder of the many struggles endured by African Americans to get an education during a time of segregation. It serves as a reminder of where we stood as a community, how far we have come and the challenges that remain to truly achieve “equity for all.”