Amidst a growing concern with the rise of the alt-right, which is said to be a revival of old, extreme right-wing and white supremacist ideology, a historically important segregated black school in Virginia has been vandalized. The one-room Ashburn Colored School building, which was built in 1892, was found Friday night covered in spray-painted Nazi swastikas and white power references, along with other racist slogans and images.
According to BBC News, the Loudoun County school remained open until the late 1950s, and many of its students are still alive today.
“It’s like a landmark for those of us who went there,” said former student Yvonne Neal.
Local students from the nearby Loudoun School for the Gifted (which owns the property) had been working on restoring the building, and they had been hoping to transform it into an education museum. The group, which has been working on the project since 2014, has raised over $21,000 for the project. They said of the vandalism that they were “heartbroken about this senseless act,” but the group remains dedicated to the school’s restoration. The vandalism brought more donations to the project, which it sorely needs, and the organizers estimate that it will cost $100,000 to fully restore the school.
“We are very sad to report that there was vandalism at the Old School last night. If you have any information about this incident, please contact the Sheriff’s Department.
“While we are heartbroken about this senseless act, please know that our students, volunteers, and community will work even harder to complete the dream of renovating the Ashburn Colored School.”
The building, also known as the Old Ashburn Schoolhouse, is located about 35 miles west of Washington, D.C., in north Virginia.
Loudon County Sheriff Mike Chapman said, “The vandalism to the Old Ashburn School is reprehensible and will not be tolerated here in Loudoun County. We will investigate all aspects of this case and will be working with our school resource officers to develop any leads.”
The Washington Post reported that the building had remained unmolested for more than 40 years until the fundraising effort brought awareness of its history to the public.
Deep Sran, the founder of the Loudoun School for the Gifted, said, “The moment you bring attention to what it is and that it’s being restored somebody decides to deface it.”
He also said that the Nazi graffiti would cause complications to the restoration effort and would likely have to remain for some time while administrators decide how best to clear it up without causing more damage.
“It may be a little while before we can clean it up without doing more harm to what is already a fragile building.”
Loudoun County Board of Supervisors chairperson Phyllis Randall said that “this is not Loudon,” and they would “send a message that this behavior is neither welcomed or tolerated in Loudoun.”
The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the individuals responsible for the vandalism.
Meanwhile, Sran said that it took all of 20 minutes for the vandals to undermine six months of careful restoration, but they would do “whatever it takes” to save the historic building.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Map, Virginia is host to 32 hate groups, including six chapters of the Ku Klux Klan, three Neo-Nazi groups, and four non-specific white nationalist groups. The number of hate groups identified by the SPLC has spiked by 14 percent since 2014, and they have yet to make a count for this year. That number is also almost double what it was before the turn of the millennium.
For the people of Loudon County, the recent resurgence of white nationalism and Nazi ideology has come home in a very big way, but they remain determined to set a better example of freedom and equality for all.
[Featured Image by Ashburn Old School Rehabilitation/Facebook]