Lucasville School: Bringing Post-Civil War African-American Education to Life

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By Erin Pittman

Lucasville School stands in Prince William County as a reminder of earlier citizens’ efforts to push against racism and establish a school system where African-American children could learn and grow. Located at 10516 Godwin Drive, Manassas, the one-room reconstructed school house once served students in grades one through six, and now its replica stands as a reminder of post-Civil War African-American education in Prince William.

The Founding of Lucasville School

Virginia’s legislature established a statewide public school system for all citizens in 1870. At the time, Lucasville School fell under the Manassas District School Board, which authorized its construction in November 1883. H.W. Lloyd built the school and finished it in March 1885. “When the school was originally built, it only cost $267.13,” said Paige Gibbons Backus, site manager of Lucasville School.

Education at Lucasville School

Students’ lessons in the one-room schoolhouse were tailored to their grade levels and covered studies in mathematics, geography, penmanship, reading and history. They also focused on black history throughout the month of February, during Abraham Lincoln’s birthday week.

A number of teachers taught at the school through the years. Some were certified teachers, and others had conditions upon hire to obtain more training as they worked.

Lucasville School permanently closed in 1926, having served youth in the area for most of the years since its opening.

The Reconstruction of Lucasville School

The school building was sold at auction after it closed and was moved to a local farm.

“The schoolhouse was used as a shed for several years in a new location northeast of Rt. 234 until 2005 when the building was dismantled, moved to another site and rebuilt between 2007- 2008 at its current location off of Godwin Drive,” said Backus. “Unfortunately, due to the deterioration of the building, only a few of the boards and nails in the building are original.”

The school was reconstructed through collaboration between citizens, county officials and Public Homes Inc., between December 2005 and February 2008.

Lucasville School Today

“When visitors come to the school, they can expect to get a large amount of information from a very small building. In the schoolhouse are exhibits about the building, its uses and preservation as well as the people who learned and taught within the school,” Backus said.

She also notes that the hands-on exhibits allow visitors to get an idea of what it was like to attend school in the late 19th century. “From sitting at the benches or desks to writing on the slate boards, playing the games or reading the books, you can really compare the education system of today to that of yesteryear,” Backus said.

Lucasville School is one of the few publicly owned, one-room African-American schoolhouses left in the country. “In this building, people can learn about how African Americans rose from the Civil War as new citizens and their efforts to challenge racism moving into the 20th century,” she said.

While staff is working to have the building open more often, currently the school is open about three times a year for programming and special events. “The school is open weekends in February for Black History Month, and we have special programming in June, August and September,” Backus said. However, she was sure to note that the school is always open for tours by appointment. To arrange a tour, call 703-365-7895.

Erin Pittman has been a writer for 10 years, but a lover of words her entire life. Her work is published in local magazines and on local and national blogs. Contact Erin at [email protected].

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