Student-driven exhibit reveals how two segregated schools led to the naming of Adams Morgan and a how a visionary African American woman shaped a community
The Story of Our Schools, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit dedicated to empowering young people to tell the powerful stories of their school community, in partnership with the Marie Reed Elementary School are unveiling an exhibit that was the result of two years of hard work by Marie Reed students and staff.
Made up of 10 students in grades 2nd through 5th grade, The Story of Our Schools Club at Marie Reed met once a week under the guidance of a dedicated Marie Reed teacher. As detailed in the exhibit, the students discovered their school’s story that starts during the early 1900s when DC was deeply divided by segregation. The name “Adams Morgan” is derived from two schools – Adams which served white students and Morgan which was for African American students. The landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education calling for the end of school segregation in 1954 started the process of bringing the schools – and community – together.
The schools namesake, Bishop Marie H. Reed, was a strong and resilient community leader whose efforts paved the way for significant improvements in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. She was instrumental in the forming of the Adams Morgan Community Council, as well as heading other pro-community organizations. In 1967, she helped spearhead the first community school in DC, The Morgan Community School, which would eventually become Marie Reed Elementary.
“Every school has a unique story and it’s amazing to see our kids learn the research skills needed to uncover it,” said The Story of Our Schools Executive Director Jennifer Harris. “Having a visionary African American DC woman at the center of Marie Reed Elementary’s story is particularly resonant today. It’s thrilling to see the students learn about their community and school and then become excited to share what they’ve learned with others. They’re a part of a specific piece of history, and they take pride in that.”
Launched in 2016, their mission was to unearth the history surrounding their school and share their findings with the broader community. They researched questions like Who was Marie Reed? What was the community like when the school was built? How has the school changed over time?
By visiting local historical institutions, engaging with guest speakers, and examining photographs, students learned research techniques and experienced historical collections and artifacts firsthand. They also interviewed community members – to include Ed Jackson, long time community activist and founding board member of the Morgan Community School – and recorded their oral histories.
“As a principal, I highly value this work. It is inspiring to see students dig deep and further develop 21st Century skills while learning to value the history of our changing school and neighborhood. I am also excited about the permanent exhibit to be used as a learning tool for every student in the building for years to come, a showcase as we continue our efforts to recruit new families each year, and other tool we will have to invite the Adams Morgan community into our school and increase our community engagement,” wrote Principal Katie Lundgren.