Retired Teacher Who Integrated Prince William, Virginia Public Schools in ’60s Joins Reps. Connolly & Lewis at Unveiling of Frederick Douglass Statue in Capitol
82-year-old Fannie Fitzgerald to Visit Capitol on Wednesday for 11am Ceremony
WASHINGTON – One of the handful of black teachers who fought in Virginia to integrate the all-white Prince William County public schools in 1964 joined Congressman Gerry Connolly Wednesday morning for the unveiling of the Frederick Douglass statue in the U.S. Capitol. She also had the opportunity to spend a few moments with civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis of Georgia.
A decade after the Supreme Court’s Brown V. Board of Education ruling ordering school desegregation in 1954, Fannie Fitzgerald and several other young African-American teachers were transferred to teach at an all-white school. As Mrs. Fitzgerald, now 82, recounted in a 2008 interview with The Washington Post, “At that time, when white people asked blacks to do something, they did it. Otherwise, we would have been punished severely.”
Mrs. Fitzgerald’s experiences in 1964 and those first years of school integration were not easy for her, but “I knew it was something I had to do,” she said. Those early efforts by Mrs. Fitzgerald and her colleagues paved the way in the county. The Prince William County public schools of 2013 are a majority minority school system with a commitment to a diverse and multi-cultural learning environment.
“Mrs. Fitzgerald enriched the lives of Prince William County students by providing an unqualified opportunity for education,” Connolly said. “Her success will forever be enshrined in the diversity that now exists in the Prince William County Public School system.”
Today, an elementary school in the county bears Mrs. Fitzgerald name and the adjacent street is named after her daughter Benita Fitzgerald Moseley, a high school track star who won a Gold Medal in the 100-meter hurdles at the 1984 Olympics. Her other daughter, Kim Lennon, is now a teacher in that school.
Mrs. Fitzgerald will join Congressman Connolly at the 11 am ceremony in Emancipation Hall in the United States Capitol Visitor Center and she hopes to have the opportunity to meet Congressman John Lewis, who was a young civil rights leader at the time Mrs. Fitzgerald began her civil rights work in Prince William.