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: Dare Elementary*
*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.
The Poetry of James Weldon Johnson: O Black and Unknown Bards
O black and unknown bards of long ago,
How came your lips to touch the sacred fire?
How, in your darkness, did you come to know
The power and beauty of the minstrels' lyre?
Who first from midst his bonds lifted his eyes?
Who first from out the still watch, lone and long,
Feeling the ancient faith of prophets rise
Within his dark-kept soul, burst into song?
Heart of what slave poured out such melody
As "Steal away to Jesus"? On its strains
His spirit must have nightly floated free
Though still about his hands he felt his chains.
Who heard great "Jordan roll"? Whose starward eye
Saw chariot "swing low"? And who was he
That breathed that comforting, melodic sigh,
"Nobody knows de trouble I see"?
What merely living clod, what captive thing,
Could up toward God through all its darkness grope,
And find within its deadened heart to sing
These songs of sorrow, love and faith, and hope?
How did it catch that subtle undertone
That note in music heard not with the ears?
How sound the elusive reed so seldom blown,
Which stirs the soul or melts the heart to tears.
Not that great German master in his dream
Of harmonies that thundered amongst the stars
At the creation, ever heard a theme
Nobler than "Go down, Moses." Mark its bars
How like a mighty trumpet-call they stir
The blood. Such are the notes that men have sung
Going to valorous deeds; such tones there were
That helped make history when Time was young.
There is a wide, wide wonder in it all,
That from degraded rest and servile toil
The fiery spirit of the seer should call
These simple children of the sun and soil.
O black slave singers, gone, forgot, unfamed,
You--you alone, of all the long, long line
Of those who've sung untaught, unknown, unnamed,
Have stretched out upward, seeking the divine.
You sang not deeds of heroes or of kings;
No chant of bloody war, no exulting paean
No arms-won triumphs; but your humble strings
You touched in chord with music empyrean.
You sang far better than you knew; the songs
That for your listeners' hungry hearts sufficed
Still live--but more than this to you belongs:
You sang a race from wood and stone to Christ.
Fifty Years, 1863-1913
On the Fiftieth Anniversary
of the Signing
of the Emancipation Proclamation
O brothers mine, today we stand
Where half a century sweeps our ken,
Since God, through Lincoln's ready hand,
Struck off our bonds and made us men.
Just fifty years--a winter's day--
As runs the history of a race;
Yet, as we look back o'er the way,
How distant seems our starting place!
Look farther back! Three centuries!
To where a naked, shivering score,
Snatched from their haunts across the seas,
Stood, wild-eyed, on Virginia's shore
For never let the thought arise
That we are here on sufferance bare;
Outcasts, asylumed 'neath these skies,
And aliens without part or share.
This land is ours by right of birth,
This land is ours by right of toil;
We helped to turn its virgin earth,
Our sweat is in its fruitful soil.
Where once the tangled forest stood--
Where flourished once rank weed and thorn--
Behold the path-traced, peaceful wood,
The cotton white, the yellow corn.
To gain these fruits that have been earned
To hold these fields that have been won
Our arms have strained, our backs have burned,
Bent bare beneath a ruthless sun.
That Banner which is now the type
Of victory on field and flood--
Remember, its first crimson stripe
Was dyed by Attucks' willing blood.
And never yet has come the cry--
When that fair fiag has been assailed--
For men to do, for men to die
That we have faltered or have failed.
We've helped to bear it, rent and torn,
Through many a hot-breath'd battle breeze
Held in our hands, it has been borne
And planted far across the seas.
And never yet--O haughty Land,
Let us, at least, for this be praised--
Has one black, treason-guided hand
Ever against that flag been raised.
Then should we speak but servile words,
Or shall we hang our heads in shame?
Stand back of new-come foreign hordes,
And fear our heritage to claim?
No! stand erect and without fear,
And for our foes let this suffice--
We've bought a rightful sonship here,
And we have more than paid the price.
And yet, my brothers, well I know
The tethered feet, the pinioned wings,
The spirit bowed beneath the blow,
The heart grown faint from wounds and stings;
The staggering force of brutish might,
That strikes and leaves us stunned and dazed;
The long, vain waiting through the night
To hear some voice for justice raised.
Full well I know the hour when hope
Sinks dead, and round us everywhere
Hangs stifling darkness, and we grope
With hands uplifted in despair.
Courage! Look out, beyond, and see
The far horizon's beckoning span!
Faith in your God-known destiny!
We are a part of some great plan.
Because the tongues of Garrison
And Phillips now are cold in death,
Think you their work can be undone?
Or quenched the fires lit by their breath?
Think you that John Brown's spirit stops?
That Lovejoy was but idly slain?
Or do you think those precious drops
From Lincoln's heart were shed in vain?
That for which millions prayed and sighed,
That for which tens of thousands fought,
For which so many freely died,
God cannot let it come to naught.
And God stepped out on space,
And he looked around and said:
I'll make me a world.
And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.
Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said: That's good!
Then God reached out and took the light in His hands,
And God rolled the light around in His hands
Until He made the sun;
And He set that sun a- blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered up in a shining ball
And flung against the darkness,
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world; And God said: That's good!
Then God himself stepped down--
And the sun was on His right hand,
And the moon was on His left;
The stars were clustered about His head,
And the earth was under His feet.
And God walked, and where He trod
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
And bulged the mountains up.
Then He stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren.
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And He spat out the seven seas--
He batted His eyes, and the lightnings flashed--
He clapped His hands, and the thunders rolled--
And the waters above the earth came down,
The cooling waters came down.
Then the green grass sprouted,
And the little red flowers blossomed,
The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the oak spread out his arms,
The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the sea;
And God smiled again,
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around His shoulder.
Then God raised His arm and He waved His hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And He said: Bring forth! Bring forth!
And quicker than God could drop His hand,
Fishes and fowls
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said: That's goodl
Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that He had made.
He looked on His world
With all its living things
And God said: I'm lonely still.
Then God sat down--
On the side of a hill where He could think;
By a deep, wide river He sat down;
With His head in His hands,
God thought and thought,
Till He thought: I'll make me a man!
Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled Him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of His hand,
This Great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby, |
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till He shaped it in His own image;
Then into it He blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.
The Glory of the Day was in Her Face
The glory of the day was in her face,
The beauty of the night was in her eyes.
And over all her loveliness, the grace
Of Morning blushing in the early skies.
And in her voice, the calling of the dove;
Like music of a sweet, melodious part.
And in her smile, the breaking light of love;
And all the gentle virtues in her heart.
And now the glorious day, the beauteous night,
The birds that signal to their mates at dawn,
To my dull ears, to my tear-blinded sight
Are one with all the dead, since she is gone.
Sence You Went Away
Seems lak to me de stars don't shine so bright,
Seems lak to me de sun done loss his light,
Seems lak to me der's nothin' goin' right,
Sence you went away.
Seems lak to me de sky ain't half so blue,
Seems lak to me dat ev'ything wants you,
Seems lak to me I don't know what to do,
Sence you went away.
Seems lak to me dat ev'ything is wrong,
Seems lak to me de day's jes twice as long,
Seems lak to me de bird's forgot his song,
Sence you went away.
Seems lak to me I jes can't he'p but sigh,
Seems lak to me ma th'oat keeps gittin' dry,
Seems lak to me a tear stays in my eye,
Sence you went away.
When I come down to sleep death's endless night,
The threshold of the unknown dark to cross,
What to me then will be the keenest loss,
When this bright world blurs on my fading sight?
Will it be that no more I shall see the trees
Or smell the flowers or hear the singing birds
Or watch the flashing streams or patient herds?
No, I am sure it will be none of these.
But, ah! Manhattan's sights and sounds, her smells,
Her crowds, her throbbing force, the thrill that comes
From being of her a part, her subtle spells,
Her shining towers, her avenues, her slums--
O God! the stark, unutterable pity,
To be dead, and never again behold my city!
Lift Every Voice and Sing
Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.