Have you driven or walked past the Army Navy Country Club in South Arlington? The Jefferson School opened on that same ground in 1870, to educate African-American students.
Jefferson School Main Building, 1932
The school was named after the "Jefferson district," where it was located. Arlington, then part of Alexandria County, was split into three districts: Jefferson, Arlington, and Washington. The Jefferson School was the first African-American school in the Jefferson district, and one of two schools for African Americans in Alexandria County.
Attendance could be spotty when the school began due to many families needing older children to help with planting and harvesting; in 1872, the school had just ten students. With the help from a local trustee, the Jefferson school got a new building and attendance began to rise. In 1889, the school trustees purchased a new property on Johnson's Hill (at the far eastern end of Columbia Pike). By 1895, attendance had swelled to over 120 students, necessitating the addition of a second story to the building on Johnson Hill, and a second teacher.
Jefferson School Annex, date unknown.
On June 29, 1912, residents of the Jefferson District petitioned the school board to construct a new school building to replace the two-room school house on Johnson’s Hill. The Board agreed to the petition and purchased a three-acre property from the South Arlington Cemetery Corporation in 1914. One year later, the 4-room school house opened, serving African American students from first to ninth grade.
By 1930, enrollment exceeded the school’s capacity and Arlington County officials started planning an addition. The addition, which was completed in 1931, doubled the size of the school. One year later, Superintendent Fletcher Kemp renamed the Jefferson School as Hoffman-Boston Junior Colored High School, after Edward C. Hoffman, former principal of the Jefferson School, and Ella M. Boston, former principal of Kemper (another African-American school in Arlington).
Hoffman-Boston became the first African American high school in the county; the first senior class graduated in 1942.
Possibly born at Freedman's Village, and raised in Arlington County, Edward Hoffman attended Howard University, enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1887, and was Principal of Jefferson School by 1896 until 1926.
"A Guide to the African American Heritage of Arlington County, Virginia," pages 49-51, produced by the Arlington County Historic Preservation Program in 2016, available in print at the Library.
"A Guide to the African American Heritage of Arlington County, Virginia," is also available as a downloadable PDF.
To learn more about Arlington's history, visit the Center for Local History on the first floor of the Central Library.
Do you have a question about this story, or a personal experience to share?
Use this form to send a message to the Center for Local History.