GRAND JURY INSPECTIONS OF SCHOOLS
by Pat Melville
[Continuation of analysis of ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Grand Jury Reports) 1933-1966 [MSA C2137] and ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION (Grand Jury Reports) 1969-1981 [MSA CM1178].] The previous article in this series concerned the investigative components pertinent to the county educational system as a whole. The grand jury reached these conclusions after visiting individual schools. At first the jurors inspected each school twice a year. By the 1970s they were looking at selected samples of school buildings.
The grand jury reports contained summaries of the findings of each investigation. Common elements of a report on a school included enrollment, number of teachers, and physical condition of the building with an emphasis on the problems and deficiencies. These conditions often persisted for years before corrective measures were taken. Other factors subject to inspection involved maintenance, play grounds, fire hazards, fire drills, overcrowding, bus safety, and food service.
In 1933, Wiley Bates High School opened in Annapolis as a secondary school for blacks within the county. The grand jury noted the event as a step forward for education in Anne Arundel County. Despite some repairs and additions throughout the next thirty-six years, the facility had fallen into severe disrepair by 1969. "It appears that the sins of the past have finally caught up with us. This school has been seriously neglected throughout the past decades...." Problems included broken windows through which pigeons were flying in and out, dilapidated bleachers and buckled floors in the gym, broken water fountains, inadequate lighting, missing or inoperative switch boxes, leaky faucets, leaking roof, broken floor tiles, peeling paint, roach and termite infestation, and leaky gas range.
Many of the schools, especially in the rural areas, were small, but still subject to the same signs of neglect. Bristol Elementary School for black students was a two-room school located in southwestern Anne Arundel County. In 1950 the school contained eighty pupils and its condition was described as good. One year later the grand jury specified several deficiencies. "Frames holding wire mesh to protect windows are rotting at corners. Spots of wood along roof edge are rotting; also shingles on roof are curling up. Water from outside pump drains over play ground. Door knobs gone and nails in their place make a fire hazard."
In 1954, the Bristol school building was renovated and enlarged to four classrooms. Within a few years, however, the roof was leaking, restroom doors were warped, paint was peeling, and sawdust was being stored in the furnace room. After these problems were rectified, the grand jury issued mostly favorable reports for the next decade. The last report in 1969 gave the school a satisfactory rating for building and grounds maintenance and an unsatisfactory for heat and ventilation and insect and rodent control. The student body consisted of two hundred students taught by four teachers.
Overcrowding was a persistent problem. Eastport Elementary in 1955, for example, contained three classrooms to educate 140 students. Five years later the school was so overcrowded that the principal's office was located in the hallway. Just before a new school was built in 1965 Traceys Landing Elementary housed two hundred forty-five pupils in a facility rated for one hundred eighty. The quality of school maintenance followed a definite pattern in the years before desegregation.
In general the schools for blacks suffered far greater deficiencies than those for the white population. In 1951 the grand jury called the black school in Friendship the worst facility in the southern part of the county. The main classroom contained no lights, and the temporary building, described as a shack in 1955, only one light. The playground was so rough that several students had sprained their ankles. To reach the outdoor toilets the pupils had to walk through a cemetery. In 1947 the McKendree Elementary School for blacks lacked many window panes, a desk and chair for one teacher, drinking water, and electricity.
Researchers studying elementary and secondary education in Maryland will find a substantial amount of statistical and descriptive information in the grand jury reports for Anne Arundel and other counties in the state.
SEARCHING BALTIMORE CITY LAND RECORDS, 1851-1966
by Nancy L. Yuill
Deeds are official ownership records of real property. A deed will describe the kind of property and its location. It can verify dates a family is living in a certain area. It can identify other family members (spouse, parents, children, in-laws, etc.). Deeds, recorded in Land Records, have been microfilmed and are available at the State Archives.
To find a specific deed, the book reference, consisting of the court clerk's initials and a number, and page number are needed. The references can be found in the Block Books or name indexes. The Block Books [MSA CM196 and CM197], arranged numerically by block number, give the address, names of grantors and grantees, and deed reference. Land transactions of all properties on the block are listed chronologically. Block Books are available at the Archives and the Mitchell Courthouse in Baltimore.
To use the Block Books the block number is needed. As long as an address is known, the city block maps can be used to determine the block number. There is an 1851 block map and one of 1896 [MSA SC1427-298] at the Archives in the search room and at the Mitchell Courthouse. City directories can be used to determine an address, at least of where a person was living at a specific time. Since many street numbers were changed between 1851 and 1896, the names of cross streets may be necessary to locate the correct block number. Some city directories give cross streets.
The second type of index to land records provides references based on the names of the parties involved in the transaction. Grantor and grantee indexes list the respective parties alphabetically on a year by year basis. Entries give the address, book reference, and page number. These indexes, having never been microfilmed, exist only at the Mitchell Courthouse.
by Shashi Thapar
Baltimore At a Glance
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MY AUTUMNAL HERITAGE
by Lee Evans
I thought that I would never
be here long enough to see
the hedge turn red again
in front of the State Archives.
Gradually, perhaps gracefully,
the fibers of this mind and body age.
Who knows what one's life is like,
until it has passed away?
Inside the Archives
there are leaves far older
than my autumnal heritage;
leaves slowly changing meanings,
withering with the centuries.
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