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Vice principal accused of white supremacy: 1961 | by Washington Area Spark
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Vice principal accused of white supremacy: 1961

Erna R. Chapman is shown in a 1957 photograph while she was an assistant principal at Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C.

 

She was charged by a former teacher Rosa K. Weiner and former student Reginald Booker with continuing racist and discriminatory treatment against black students in 1961 in an article in the Washington Afro American and in testimony before Congress.

 

Booker charged that although schools had been desegregated in 1954, black students were forced into lower tracks and the subject of bias by Horn and vice principal Erma R. Chapman.

 

Booker was quoted as saying, “Everything you wrote in that article was true. The white teachers at Roosevelt gave Miss Wiener a hard time because she treated the colored students decently. There were all kinds of racial segregation at Roosevelt because of [assistant principals] Mr. [Walter E.] Horn and Mrs. [Erna R.] Chapman.”

 

Stone said that Booker confirmed details of Wiener’s account including the barring black students from the stage crew and the refusal to permit black students to work in the school bank.

 

However, Stone said it was Booker who offered the sharpest indictment of the school system:

 

“The basic track system operates. Even when colored students make “A’s” and “B’s,” they are still never promoted out of the basic track. Many white teachers are racially prejudiced against them and colored students just don’t have a chance to improve.”

 

Booker graduated in 1961. He had already begun attending civil rights demonstrations in junior high.

 

He would go on to help desegregate department stores and hospitals, refuse to fight in Vietnam, organize a boycott of D.C. schools, lead a fight against building D.C. freeways and for a public takeover of the bus system and to build the Metrorail system.

 

He would fight to increase the number of black workers in the building trades and upgrade those in the federal and District of Columbia governments.

 

In a long activist career, he would be a founding member of the Black United Front, leader of several rights and black liberation groups, lead many battles against police brutality and a host of other rights issues.

 

Booker died without fanfare in 2015

 

For a detailed account of Booker’s activism, victories and defeats, see washingtonareaspark.com/2020/01/28/the-d-c-black-liberati...

 

For more information and related images, see flic.kr/s/aHsm8XFDEt

 

The photographer is unknown. The image is from the 1957 Rough Rider Yearbook.

 

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Taken sometime in 1957