Rev. William M. Alexander:

"Keep The Work Alive"

Rev. William Alexander had always known the importance of education, and he attempted to foster formal education wherever he served. In the early-1880s, during his days with the Sitke Mission at Burnt Mills, Alexander used the mission's chapel as a day school for local children who previously were forced to walk six miles to the nearest black school, located at Beltsville, Md. Because Rev. Alexander demonstrated the need, a school for black children was soon opened at Burnt Mills by the Montgomery County government. This same need for education and educational facilities presented itself to Rev. Alexander upon assuming the pastorship of Patterson Ave. Baptist Church, Baltimore. Literally hundreds of black children were unable to be educated because of the crowded conditions at the not-too-nearby Biddle Street and Waesche Street Elementary Schools. Rev. Alexander, and his wife, Ellen Smith Alexander, set up a school for the children in the church's neighborhood (reportedly 300 children were enrolled). Two teachers were employed, and the school was financed by a tuition of ten cents per chid, per week. Having made obvious the need for a public school in the area, Alexander and the civil rights organization of local Baptist ministers which he co-founded, the Mutual United Brotherhood of Liberty, spear-headed an effort to secure a school. The people of the community, professionals and working class alike, pushed the issue, and the local press, espeacially Alexander's own Afro American, kept it fresh in the public's mind. The city responded by purchasing a lot at the corner of Carrollton and Riggs streets, two blocks southeast of Patterson Avenue Baptist Church, for the purposes of building a new school. This neighborhood was still predominently white, and voiced an opinion that it wished to remain that way. However, over the objection of the neighborhood's homeowners, Public School No. 9 was opened in 1889. A secondary though long-held goal was also achieved by this event, as Public School No. 9 became the first with an all-black faculty (during the previous year, the city hired Roberta B. Sheridan, the first black to teach in the city's schools).

After the establishment of School No. 9, William Alexander remained active in city politics. Though he never sought office himself, he was known as one who, "does not object to being classed with that element of ministers who take a hand in politics." This held true most often, "when the interests of the race are at stake." "Keep the work alive," were reportedly the last words uttered by Alexander as he passed away.

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Copyright February 03, 1998 Maryland State Archives