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Students See History in Action in Georgetown

U.S. History teacher Dr. Derrick Angermeier took his students on a walking trip to the former site of the Wormley School to see how the period of Reconstruction after the Civil War affected the neighborhood of Georgetown.

"Very frequently people consider history something that needs to be defended and appreciated, but gets relegated to names, dates, dusty books discarded to library shelves, and distorted entertainment-oriented television documentaries. History, the discipline responsible for recording, processing, and sharing our past, should be considered more of an action verb. Archivists save and catalog materials, historians research those and contextualize those materials, public activists take that info and make it accessible to the public," said Dr. Angermeier. "My job as a history teacher is to help students better understand that process so that they can form their own critical interpretations of the past."

He likes to ensure students see the connection between the past and the present. "To get students to fully appreciate the actual living and breathing work of history, they need to get occasionally out of the classroom, away from the books, and see a fully realized work of public history," said Dr. Angermeier.

He chose the site of the Wormley School as part of their unit on Reconstruction. During class, they walked to its location just down the street. "The Wormley School got its name from James Wormley, a prominent Black activist and business owner in D.C. who forcefully advocated for Black education in the district. He also held the ironic honor of owning the establishment that various White D.C. elite met in 1877 to hammer out the compromise that ended Reconstruction, a move that gave rise to the Jim Crow era that caused significant harm to the Black Southern community," explained Dr. Angermeier.

He pointed out to students a marker in the location, which has been developed as high-end condominiums. "[The marker] identifies [the building's history] while ensuring the DC's second Black public school gets remembered," he said. "Said marker only recently came to fruition from a larger public historical project to highlight Black voices and perspectives in Georgetown's history. Without this effort, the Wormley School would likely only be known to archivists, experts, and those dwindling few who remember the school's existence before its closure in the 1950s."

Dr. Angemeier hopes students understand that they can be a part of ensuring history is not forgotten. "History is made by those who show up and the Wormley School demonstrates that vital lesson of the historical craft in excellent fashion," he said. "This visit overall aimed to empower students to take ownership of the historical process as they will be the ones entrusted with it, a burden they share with all the generations that preceded them."


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