Robert Jewett


Robert Jewett was the assistant principal at Bryant, now at Hayfield high school was manager of the Little Hunting Park pool.

Little Hunting Park vs. Sullivan was a test case which eventually reached the Supreme Court and I might mention that the issue involved wasn't black vs. white, it was private club activity vs. open community pool activity. The Supreme Court found that Little Hunting Park was in violation of the Sullivans' civil rights in that anybody who belonged to the so-called Bucknell Heights community could, if they were Caucasian, join the pool. It seemed very obvious to them that the single thing preventing the Sullivan family's tenants from using the pool was the fact that they were black. Little Hunting Park maintained that it was just a question of could they have a private club? And of course the Supreme Court in all its wisdom was able to see right through it, and eventually opened up all of the so called private clubs to the entire community. You know, meaning everybody.

I came here in 1954, which was a pivotal year in civil rights, and at that time I signed a white only or Caucasian only, that was the term, clause when I bought a home. The document prevented you from selling your home to anybody except a member of the Caucasian race. I couldn't sell it to an oriental, I couldn't sell it to a black, I couldn't sell it to an Indian. It had to be Caucasian. The federal government ruled those clauses unconstitutional.

I noted a pretty gradual but reasonable change in housing within the Bucknell Heights area. I think a combination of things caused the area to change, not the least was the Supreme court ruling. I think it's significant that there's a great deal of anger still generated within the Bryant community towards Little Hunting Park. I think its significant that no black families belonged to little Hunting Park and they're quite adamant about why they don't They just say, "You didn't want us when we wanted to come and now we don't want you." It's interesting to know that the membership at the time was certainly divided on the issue. Some wanted to integrate the pool others did not.

At the beginning, 13 intermediate schools were built, 10 at the same exact time. The land that was taken by the County was all black-owned land. The Quander family, specifically --the land was actually given to them. And utilized by blacks all the way down to the late fifties when it was condemned and taken by what you could call the white Fairfax County government --because at that time there were no black Fairfax County employees. No black firemen, no black policemen and no black judges, no black school teachers. The white men came in, condemned the land, took the land. It's significant that when the school was built they threw up a high barbed wire fence around the property which is still in existence today. The Quander children that lived in the old white Quander farm home had to walk down around the other side of the fence and catch a bus to Luther Jackson, which was a newly created black high school. I might add that it was the only black high school in the community at that time. Prior to that time black students whose parents lived in the community only had access to grades 1-8. Mr. Quander's, grandson tells me that he was one of the first blacks to go to Groveton. He said to me that he was spit on and that they were cursed. He is a student at Federal City College now. He was interviewing me. I sort of turned things around and asked him a few questions. He claimed that sure, there was no physical violence done to him unless you consider being spat on physical.

I remember one incident well. It involved direct conflict between a large number of blacks from Hybla Valley and a large number of blacks from the Spring Bank community. I attempted at that time to cause the kids to come together and resolve the conflicts themselves. Most of my attempts were looked at by members of the black and white community as acts of a bigot --because I would do such things as separate black and white. I always took the position that I had observed very little meaningful integration.

I would say that conditions have improved in housing more than in any other area. It's observable that people who were ignoring black neighbors don't ignore them anymore. They do speak and get along. Initially there was the temptation to move on the parts of some whites in that community.

I remember filling a clinic one day with about 20 black boys and girls and they were having a real hard go. They were physically angry and had been violent and I put them in the clinic and said, "I'm asking you not to do any more violence with one another but to talk it out." There seems to me to be some evidence to suggest that people appreciate an opportunity to get together and to work on a specific problem and not have the man or woman leading the way. I think, I think I would try that sort of thing again.

One of the rules that I established for a community rap group was that no more than 3 white adults be in the meeting on any given night. That's a pretty strong statement. I took the position that the black man had been dumped on often enough by whitey and was used to taking what we call a subservient position, just sitting back and letting whitey rant and rave like I do, and so letting whitey resolve his problems. We didn't need any more of that. The only way I knew how to cause something other than that to happen was to overload the meeting with blacks so they would finally stand and take a position and put us on the spot, the few of us that were there, and they did.

I was attacked by Herman Howard, whom I think an awful lot of, and he was indicating that it was demeaning to blacks to say this. "We don't need you to stack it in our favor, we'll speak." I said, "You will speak, you are a professional, you have a doctorate in communications. Yes, you will speak and you will speak whenever you get the chance. You will represent yourself, your family, and your race, and your community." We tried for what we call grass roots participation as opposed to the token black representation. I believe we were one of the only groups ever to get it.

There's an advantage to a small setting such as Groveton High School or Bryant Intermediate as opposed to Hayfield, and I think that's it. When somebody tells you that you can divide 4,000 students up into 6 subschools, and that everyone will get personal attention, you need to say well, that's been tried, and that hasn't been the case. I'd like to go back to a smaller setting.

Volume One, Table of Contents
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