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Garnet C. Wilkinson, longtime DC school official: 1950 ca. | by Washington Area Spark
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Garnet C. Wilkinson, longtime DC school official: 1950 ca.

Garnet C. Wilkinson, the longtime assistant superintendent in charge of the District of Columbia’s segregated public African American schools, is shown in a portrait circa 1950.


Wilkinson was in charge of the black segregated schools from 1921 until 1954 when the school system was integrated and he became an assistant superintendent in the merged schools.


Wilkinson became the first African American in charge of black schools in the District after the resignation of Roscoe Conkling Bruce in the wake of the 1919 Moens’ child abuse scandal when so-called professor Moens was revealed to be taking nude photographs of African American school children.


While in charge of black schools, Wilkinson developed them into some of the best in the nation.


However working class African American parents challenged the deplorable conditions of their schools in the city and Wilkinson became a target when he instituted a plan where students went to school at the Browne Junior High for half a day, later amending the plan to have students walk half a mile to annexes during their school day to sit in small elementary school desks with no equipment or recreational facilities.


Wilkinson remained on the hot seat until lawsuits arising out of the uproar settled the issue once and for all when the Supreme Court ruled in May 1954 that District of Columbia school segregation was illegal in the Bolling v. Sharpe case.


For more information and related images, see


Read the story of of DC desegregation from the pickets to the courts:


Photo by Scurlock Studios. Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History: Archives Center.

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Taken circa 1950