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Joseph Walker and Jason C. Grant: The men behind the well-known school name


 Joseph Walker
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Date published: 2/16/2005

Joseph Walker and Jason C. Grant shared the honor of having a Fredericksburg school named for them, and both worked to establish the first city high school for blacks.

But the men came from vastly different backgrounds.

Walker was born a slave in 1854 and was owned by the Goodwin family of Spotsylvania County. Grant was a free man, born in Canada the year the Civil War began.

Walker was self-taught; Grant was well educated.

In the 1870s, Walker moved to Fredericksburg and earned $1.14 a day at a paper mill. By 1873, he had saved enough to buy 10 acres in Spotsylvania for his mother, a midwife named Rosetta Smith.

Grant came to Fredericksburg from New York and spent 42 years teaching in local schools. His children became educators at Howard University.

Walker and Grant led a group who established the first high school for blacks. The Fredericksburg Normal and Industrial Institute opened in 1905 with one teacher and 20 students.

The school was considered private because it was not supported by public funds. Fifteen residents pledged $10 each to operate the school, which was open to any student.

Also known as Mayfield High School, the school eventually was combined with the elementary school.

It closed in 1935–36, when Walker–Grant Elementary School opened. The new school added four rooms, for grades seven through 12, three years later. It was the first time Fredericksburg blacks could go to public school beyond grade six.





Sources: "A Different Story" by Ruth Coder Fitzgerald; HistoryPoint.org of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library; The Free Lance-Star archives; State of Michigan Web site; African Within; The Kennedy Center; We Were Always Free By T.O. Madden Jr.; The Richmond Times-Dispatch; Life Magazine; Westmoreland County, Virginia.

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