Val Verde County Historical Commission
Before the American Supreme Court ordered an end to racial segregation in the public schools, Del Rio was home to Langston School. The school building was located in the San Felipe Independent School District, a largely Hispanic school system that itself was excluded from Del Rio’s larger, less minority school system.
The school was named for Langston Hughes, an African American writer associated with the Harlem Renaissance.1 The school served the community for a short time during the 1930s and again from 1945 to 1955. The San Felipe district bought the property in 1934. However, records are few, the number of students it served was small, and its exact origin has been lost to living memory.2
Langston was located on De La Rosa Street, on the south side of the street between Plaza and Waters. The school building itself was a two-room construction: one classroom and a smaller storeroom. The restroom was an outhouse behind the building.
With only one classroom, the school employed only one teacher (at any time). The school had no principal. The teacher taught students from grades one through eight, but no more than thirty students attended during any of the school years. Upper classmen often helped instruct or tutor students from the lower grades; they also accompanied and supervised younger students at recess behind the school building. The subjects offered at Langston included the supposed three r’s: reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as history, geography, home economics, and some advanced English and algebra courses. Extra-curricular activities were rare or absent entirely.3
Langston offered no high school level courses. Students wanting to continue beyond the eighth grade were force to attend high school elsewhere, such as the Del Rio I.S.D.'s Tarver School or San Antonio's Wheatley High School. Some students attended high school as far away as Houston; attendance depended on where distant family members lived and were able to house and care for the student. Sending students to other school districts was difficult for many families because those receiving district, include Del Rio I.S.D. charged money for those non-resident students.4
Langston did have a Parent Teacher Association, PTA. The PTA met monthly in the school; its main purposes were serving as teacher’s aids and fundraising to pay for school necessities. Bake sales were common. Other parents performed maintenance to keep the building habitable.5
Langston School was closed following the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. At the time of the decision, fifteen students were enrolled at Langston. Nevertheless, San Felipe I.S.D. decided to integrate gradually, moving some grades into the newly non-segregated schools before others. The exact integration plan has been forgotten, but it seems that students of the first grade was the only ones still in the schoolhouse in 1956. The facility was closed in 1957. The District later sold the property, which remains in private hands today.6
At the conclusion of the integration process, in 1958, some forty-six African American students were enrolled across the District. Within the integrated school district, the students seem to have been accepted into classes, clubs, and extracurricular activities. However, the students suffered some violence as San Felipe teams traveled to away games and events.7
1. There is no personal connection between the man and the school. Del Rio’s Tarver School was named for a teacher at the school. Langston Hughes’ name seems to have been chosen a role model and exemplar for the students.
2. Doug Braudaway, "African-American Del Rio," Journal of Big Bend History, Volume 21, 2009, pages 174-175; Jesse J. Esparza, "Schools Of Their Own: The San Felipe Independent School District and Mexican American Educational Autonomy, Del Rio, Texas, 1928-1972," University of Houston Ph.D. dissertation, December 2008, page 124. The segregated school in Uvalde, Texas was operated by the Uvalde school district from 1938 to 1955, approximately the same years as the Del Rio school. (However, no link or pattern has been to be ascertained.) Vianna Davila, "Bid made to save old segregated Uvalde school," San Antonio Express-News, July 16, 2010, pages 1A, 13A.
3. Esparza, "Schools Of Their Own," pages 124-131.
4. Roger Blanks; Esparza, "Schools Of Their Own," pages 129-131.
5. Esparza, "Schools Of Their Own," pages 134-135.
6. Esparza, "Schools Of Their Own," pages 135-139.
7. Esparza, "Schools Of Their Own," pages 140-1.