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Why African American alumni are joining forces at former Va. school site: 'A picture says a thousand words'

Ms. Sarah Good Rich, Walter Reed Elementary School
New plaque of African American history at Walter Reed Elementary
Posted at 12:37 PM, May 18, 2023

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — More than 60 years ago the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center in Newport News was Walter Reed Elementary School.

Walter Reed was originally created for White students, but in 1961 the school eventually became segregated due to gentrification. White people then chose not to attend schools with African Americans.

Angela Reason, the granddaughter of Ms. Sarah Good Rich, a math teacher at Walter Reed Elementary School, said her grandmother instilled excellence in every student.

"What she said is what she absolutely meant — if you did something, and you did it halfway, it's better to not do it at all," said Reason.

Dr. Terri Best is a former 5th-grade student of Goodrich. Best said when the school eventually became the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center, its history was left out.

So, the Walter Reed African American Alumni Association joined forces to ensure that their history was accurately displayed.

"Nowhere in the pictorial did you see the fact that African Americans attended this school. A picture says a thousand words. One of our complaints was why weren't we included in this pictorial history?" Best said.

On April 29, a new historical plaque was unveiled to show the community the legacy African American students left at Walter Reed Elementary School.

Best mentioned that presenting a significant part of history like this will inspire the next generation.

"What was set here will continue to impact our community, but not only will her children benefit from that, my children, my grandchildren, and all of the students who attended Walter Reed," Best said.

Reason says she will never let her grandmother's legacy fade away and she is proud to have a hand in displaying her grandmother's history.

"My grandmother's great-great-grandchildren and generations to come will be able to come and say, 'Oh my goodness this is my family,'" Reason said.

The plaque is free and open for the public to see.

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