Police in Northern Virginia are continuing to investigate the vandalism of a historic segregated schoolhouse for black children after it was painted with racist messaging Friday night, and authorities have enlisted the support of the FBI and the Virginia State Police.
Loudoun County Sheriff Michael L. Chapman said that a combined reward of $2,000 is being offered to the public for tips that lead to solving the case.
“This is not going to be tolerated here in Loudoun County,” Chapman said at a news conference Monday evening. “We’re all very upset about this and hope the community sees how seriously we’re taking this.”
The incident took place late Friday, police said. The old Ashburn Colored School was defaced with spray painted swastikas and messages including “White Power.” The school educated black children from 1892 to the 1950s, and the dilapidated structure sat empty and boarded up until about a year and half ago, when students from the private Loudoun School for the Gifted began to restore it. The students held a bake sale and participated in other fundraising efforts to support the project.
Deep Sran, the founder of the Loudoun School for the Gifted, said that the racist graffiti will complicate the restoration. The boards covered with the spray paint must be replaced entirely or repaired, he said.
“We were surprised, disappointed and outraged to see what had happened,” Sran said. But he noted that donations to the restoration effort have surged in recent days.
A bipartisan group of local elected officials participated in the news conference Monday to highlight a day of service scheduled for Sunday, during which volunteers will help restore the school building.
“This is a deplorable act that occurred here,” said Ralph Buona, a Republican who is the vice chair of the Loudoun Board of Supervisors. “There is no place for hatred in Ashburn or Loudoun County.”
Phyllis Randall, a Democrat who is the first black woman to be elected chair of the county board, said that the hate speech painted on the building is “an affront to the decent human beings in our community. … This is not just a deplorable act, it is really an atrocity.”
Phillip Thompson, president of the Loudoun County chapter of the NAACP, said that he is glad to see both political parties working together to restore the school building, but he noted that the historic structure sat abandoned for decades without attracting much attention.
“All of the sudden there’s racist graffiti on the building and here come the politicians,” Thompson said. He said the vandalism represents “just a symptom of what’s hidden that’s bubbling up,” recently in the current political climate, and that “this is just a manifestation of what we’re seeing in society.”
Buona acknowledged that the racist messaging appears to reflect that “there’s a lot of hatred and divisiveness out there.”