Surrounded by early maps of the Brightwood area, newspaper clippings yellowed with age and told photographs of past alumni, Jane Alexander said that when she started research into Brightwood Elementary School's past she didn't expect to find much of interest.
"But as we got into it," she said, "we discovered an area rich in history."
"It started out as a 'Roots' type project, an attempt to relate the child to his or her neighborhood," Alexander, the school's librarian, said of the Golden Jubilee celebration heid at Brightwood Elementary School last Saturday.
The program was the result of study and research done by students and teachers into the 50-year history of the school located in northwest Washington.
"Originally, this is a segregated white school," Alexander said. Black children attended classes at Military Road School. When the Supreme Court made the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, Brightwood was desegregated. As increasing numbers of black students began attending the school and more black families moved into the neigborhood, "white flight" and community efforts to stop white flight occurred, said Alexander.
The change in the neighborhood was one reason few early alumni of the school attended the 50th anniversity reunion, she said. "Many early alumni have moced away and we couldn't find them."
Among two of the early alumni who did attend were Dave Robbins of Rockville, who was graduated from Brightwood in 1948, and his older brother Paul, a reident of Silver Spring.
"I was listening to the radio one morning, and I thought I heard an announcement," Dave Robbins said. "I could hardly believe it, so I called up the school, and sure enough, it was true."
Helen Safrit, a teacher at Brightwood from 1958 to 1968 and now principal at Bancroft School in northwest Washington, attended the reunion and expressed surprise at seeing members of the Gibs family. Eight of the nine children of Arline and Frederick Gibbs had been students during Safrit's teaching career at Brightwood.The youngest member of the Gibbs family, Susan, is now in the fifth grade at the school.
Greeting previous students, teachers and principals of Brightwood School were John Jackson and Vivian Slade, selected by their fellow classmates as Jubilee king and queen to preside over the festivities.
A bried history of the Brightwood area from the early 1800s to present reunion by Alexander, Betty Williams and Norma Kelly, both teachers at Brightwood, and illustrated with the art work of Brightwood students. The presentation covered the Brightwood area from the time it was a wooded recreation area to the construction of the present Brightwood School in 1926, and included suggested tours for school children to help them get an idea of the area as it was many years ago.