Honoring an icon

A Jefferson County Schools building at 306 S. Lawrence St. has a new name: the Martin Robinson Delaney Opportunity Learning Center.

The Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society asked for the name change to memorialize an influential 19th-century African-American born in Charles Town, and the school board gave the OK at its March 12 meeting.

When Delaney was born on May 6, 1812, Charles Town was part of Virginia and slaves and free blacks alike were forbidden by law from learning to read and write.

The Delaneys taught Martin and his four older siblings to read and write anyway.

“In fear of being arrested and punished, the family moved to Chambersburg, Pa., around 1823,” explained James Taylor, president of the county’s Black History Preservation Society.

“Martin went on to become, among other things, a medical doctor and the highest-ranking African-American line officer in the Civil War. He was recommended by President Abraham Lincoln and commissioned by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton the rank of major.”

School officials rely on the Opportunity Learning Center to give more individual attention to at-risk middle and high school students. The new name will offer students there further inspiration, Taylor said.

“Naming this particular school for Dr. Delaney was very appropriate and the ideal school to bear his name,” he said. “After all, his early life here in Charles Town dealt with trying to learn to read and write; so what better place to be named for him than a school where learning to improve these skills is most important?”

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