The Manassas Industrial School Jennie Dean Memorial, Manassas

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By John Cowgill

Many have driven past Jennie Dean Elementary School on Wellington Road, and many have driven past the Jennie Dean Memorial located in from of the school.  How many have stopped to take a look at the memorial? How many people even know who Jennie Dean is? They do not teach about her in today’s schools or colleges, but she is someone that you would love to meet.

Jane Septa Dean, commonly known as ‘Jennie’ Dean, was born in 1848 into slavery in Prince William County.  She was not well educated, but she did take a job in Washington, D.C. to help support her family.  She watched as her fellow African-Americans struggled through life with little skills and low paying jobs.  That did not go well with Jennie Dean, who became a skilled worker herself.  She founded churches to include the Mount Calvary Church in Catharpin.

In order for her fellow African-Americans to acquire the skills she had acquired, the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth was opened in 1893, and many African-Americans were taught the skills to get great paying jobs.  Andrew Carnegie, a famous industrialist, made a contribution to the school, and the library was named for him. Oswald Garrison Villard, the publisher of the Saturday Evening Post, donated to the school and was the chairman from 1905 to 1913.  Frederick Douglass, a great orator, social reformer, and the first American-American to serve on a U.S. Presidential cabinet (under Abraham Lincoln), gave the opening remarks at the dedication ceremony.  There were many out-of-towners who contributed to the school. Emily Howland of New York donated $1,000.00 the pay off the land, and Howland Hall was named for her.

Jennie Dean passed away in 1913 and is buried at the Mount Calvary Church. The Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth is long gone, but neither Jennie Dean nor the school have been forgotten.  Jennie Dean Elementary School was built next to the site of the school.  As for the site itself, a memorial was built.  At the site, you will see the outline of the structures of the school, including Howland Hall and Carnegie Hall, the largest building of the school.  You will see a statue of Jennie Dean herself, and you will see a model of the school.  As you walk around, you will see the work of an amazing woman.

Jennie Dean

Looking at the Jennie Dean statue

The Manassas Industrial School Jennie Dean Memorial is located in front of the Jennie Dean Elementary School on Wellington Road at the intersection with Prince William Street.  It is a short drive from Old Town Manassas and Virginia Route 28.  The memorial is accessible all day and night.  Parking is on site, but it may be limited when school is in session.  The grounds are wheelchair accessible, but unpaved areas may prove difficult.

The next time you are driving on Wellington Road, make a detour into the Jennie Dean Elementary School.  Take a walk through the memorial.  Prepare to be amazed by an amazing woman.

John Cowgill (johnbcowgill1@gmail.com) loves to visit historic places to include lesser-known sites.  He loves taking road trips, and he loves railroads.  You can also follow him on Facebook at ‘John Cowgill: Photographic Journeys’ and John Cowgill: DC Railroad Examiner.  You can also check out ‘John Cowgill: Stories of the Railroad’ at johncowgillstoriesoftherailroad.com.

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