Brian Fries, principal
At Yorktown Middle School:
- We believe that all learners need to be rigorously challenged and empowered with basic and critical thinking skills.
- We are a committed, cooperative community who strive to support the diverse needs of children.
- We seek to provide a school climate in which students develop respect for the rights of others as they gain the skills they need to become productive, contributing members of a diverse world.
York Zone Schools:
*attendance zone split with Grafton Middle
YMS has a rich and diverse history that spans over 50 years. Our history demonstrates and celebrates our honored commitment to educating York County youth with excellence.
A two-room schoolhouse served the students of Yorktown until the year 1922 when the red brick building on Ballard Street opened. The original two room frame building had no electricity and received its bucket of water from the well of the Rogers home, now known as the “Fine Arts Center on the Hill”. The bucket of water sat on a table in a hall between the two classrooms of the building. One room accommodated grades one through six, the other grades seven through ten.
History of the York County Training School
(James Weldon Johnson School Yearbook)
In 1914, under the leadership of the late Mrs. Mary S. Washington, a movement was begun to build a schoolhouse. Dr. Jackson Davis, who was the State Supervisor of Negro Education, became interested and sought to carry out the proposed movement. He recommended Charles E. Brown, the principal of the Graded School at Charlotte Court House, Virginia. Mr. Brown came to York County in October 1914, and soon a four room frame building was constructed and ready for use in 1915. The Colored parents donated much of the labor used in the construction of the building. An old abandoned store was converted into a domestic science room for girls. The patrons purchased an adjacent lodge hall, and converted it into a manual art shop for boys. Five teachers were employed.
In 1918 the U.S. Government established the Naval Mine Depot on the property on which the school was located. Until a new school building could be constructed, classes were taught at Shiloh Baptist Church. The patrons purchased 51/2 acres of land with the $6,000 received from the government for the original school property. Donations of $1600 from the Rosenwald Fund, and $4300 secured through personal contributions, entertainments, and solicitations, built a six-room building with an auditorium, an office and cloakrooms. It was ready for use in 1921.
Two teachers were added, making a faculty of seven instructors. Two years of high school were provided. An abandoned one-room schoolhouse was torn down, moved to the school site and reconstructed to serve as a boy’s workshop. The former domestic science course was developed into a home economics course, and the manual arts course became the agriculture course. Two more instructors were added, increasing the faculty to nine teachers who provided four years of high school work.
With $2000 provided by the State, $2000 by the County School Board, and $2000 by the patrons, a modern home economics cottage was constructed, and under similar arrangements an agriculture shop was constructed. Then the reconstructed "old one room school building" was converted into a science laboratory. With a faculty of nine well trained teachers, and 320 pupils, the York County Training School was well established, and though it had not met the requirements of the State for accreditation, its graduates were accepted by such schools as Hampton Institute, Virginia State, Morgan State, and Union Theological Seminary.
During the period from 1914 to 1933, Mr. Brown remained the principal of the school and the guiding force in the school’s advancement. During this same period the members of the faculty represented such schools as University of Pennsylvania, Howard University, Virginia Union, Hampton Institute, Virginia State College, Wilberforce College, and St. Paul College.
Some of the contributing factors which did much to enhance the progress of the school were; the interest and enthusiasm of the patrons, and the interest, influence, and encouragement provided by the presence of such noted persons as the late Dr. Booker T. Washington, Dr. Hollis B. Frissell, Dr. John M. Gandy, Dr. James H. Dillard, Dr. Jackson Davis, and Dr. R.C. Stearn, State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
There was an interest in the need for improvement in Negro Education, which was spearheaded by such organizations as the Rosenwald Fund, Jeanes Fund, General Education Board, and the Slater Fund. Several acts of Congress made available finances to aid education in the South. In 1915 our school term was lengthened to eight months and the patrons donated one half the amount of the salary for the four teachers. The enrollment that year was 208 representing eight grades. School work that year showed marked progress. Two years of high school work were now added and one could see rapid improvement and progress through the types of programs, which were given at church and schools.
On May 31, 1954, a great catastrophe befell us. Our building burned to the ground putting 376 pupils out of school. The Shiloh Baptist Church opened its doors to us as they had done in 1914, when the government took over the school property.
The Motley Construction Company of Farmville, Virginia built the James Weldon Johnson School. Work was started on this building June 14, 1953. The cost was $731,966. There were twenty-six classrooms, a gymnasium, an auditorium and classrooms. The enrollment was 650 high school and elementary pupils.
There were twenty-six instructors. We had a twelve-year curriculum, including business, agriculture, shop, home economics, and the academic subjects.
Third Generation Schools
James Weldon Johnson/Yorktown Intermediate School/Yorktown Middle School
The school is located on Route 17 at the corner of Goosley Road about ½ mile from the Coleman Bridge. The school was opened for African American students in 1954 as a complete school with grades one through twelve, replacing the York County Training School, which was located on Goosley Road. The Training School burned in 1953 just a short time before the opening of the new school.
The county schools were integrated during the 1967-68 school year. The school was renamed Yorktown Intermediate School and housed grades seven through nine. In 1972, ninth grade students were moved to York High School. At the beginning of the 1992-93 school year, the school was renamed Yorktown Middle School. Sixth grade students were taken out of the elementary schools and placed at Yorktown Middle School.
In order to remember the legacy of the James Weldon Johnson School, on August 18, 1996 the auditorium was dedicated the "James Weldon Johnson Memorial Auditorium".
Biography of James Weldon Johnson
One of the leading figures in 20th Century American Literature and politics, James Weldon Johnson, proved to be a man of many talents. He was born on June 17, 1871 in Jacksonville, Florida to James and Helen Johnson. At age 23, he graduated Summa Cum Laude from Atlanta University. Following graduation, Johnson accepted the principalship of his former grade school: Stanton School in Jacksonville, Florida where he worked for eight years.
Motivated by a sense of mission to his race, Johnson began publishing a daily newspaper, The Daily American in May 1895. Two years later, he passed the bar examination and became certified to practice law in the state of Florida. Also, in 1897 he became the first black to be admitted to the bar in Duval County, Florida.
With his brother Rosamond, the multi-talented Johnson decided to embark on a songwriting career in New York City. Together they composed "Lift Every Voice and Sing", which became regarded as the Black National Anthem. In 1902, he resigned from the Stanton School and began studying dramatic literature at Columbus University. Four years hence he became the US Consul to Venezuela and later Consul to Nicaragua.
While penning a major novel The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, he completed six years of service as an American diplomat. Feeling that he should take a more active part in the struggle for racial justice, he returned to New York in 1913 and became an editor-writer for a prominent Black newspaper. Three years later, he joined the staff of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) where he served as a field secretary and later as executive secretary (1920).
During his writing career, Johnson published several other books including The Book of American Negro Poetry, The Book of American Negro Spirituals, and God's Trombones. His autobiography Along This Way was published in 1933 - two years after he became a professor at Fisk University.
On June 26, 1938 James Weldon Johnson's life ended as the result of a car/train accident in Wiscasset, Maine.
This excerpt appeared in the booklet entitled "A Golden Legacy - Rich and Diverse" created for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the James Weldon Johnson School/Yorktown Intermediate/Yorktown Middle School held on Saturday, August 21, 2004 at Yorktown Middle School in Yorktown, VA.