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What does an empty former school building in Baltimore’s Upton neighborhood have in common with our City Hall, the world-famous Druid Hill Conservatory, and the Lawyers Mall in front of Maryland’s State House where decisions are made that change the trajectory of our state and our lives? Growing up in West Baltimore, I entered P.S. 103, the Henry Highland Garnett School, each day knowing many things about my place of learning. I knew that it was named for a man who was born into slavery, escaped to freedom, and became the first African American to deliver a sermon to the U. S. House of Representatives. I knew that it was where the great Justice Thurgood Marshall first learned about the Constitution of the United States of America and that the 1954 Brown vs Board of Education influenced Walter Sondheim to lead the desegregation of Baltimore Schools. I knew his career influenced my classmate Elijah E. Cummings to become a lawyer and later a U.S. Congressman.
I did not know that the very building itself was historically significant, designed by the famous architect George A. Frederick who designed City Hall, Lawyers Mall, the Rawlings Conservatory, and several other buildings conjured up for many when they think of Baltimore and Maryland. What I also did not know then, and would not know for some time, was that this building that gave so many of us in West Baltimore our start at education and an opportunity for success would still have more to give. Many have passed this building as it has sat empty for more than 20 years and thought how sad it was that this former community hub was abandoned and boarded up.
I look at P.S. 103 and see the opportunity of a new life— for an historic building and for the people and the community of West Baltimore. I hope you’ll join me in taking a look around.
On Division Street in Upton, there sits a school that once taught the boys and girls who grew up to be among Baltimore’s greatest leaders and brightest lights. P.S. 103, the Henry Highland Garnet School, was the heart of a bustling community.
As West Baltimore thrived and offered hard-working people and courageous children a place to live, work and play, the school taught many who, in turn, taught the world. A former community anchor surrounded by even more history, P.S. 103 sits by the former law offices of Juanita Jackson Mitchell, the first Black woman to practice law in Maryland and the Union Baptist Church that has served West Baltimore since 1852 and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
P.S. 103 is a building that has given much to the world. There is even more that it still can give.
The heart of West Baltimore still beats, and there is still life that this building can give our beloved community. Reclaiming its role as a center for education, a force for equalization, and a place where all can go to give and receive assistance, P.S. 103’s transformation will be a transfusion for West Baltimore.
Through a strategic partnership with the Beloved Community Services Corporation, Inc. of Union Baptist Church, the University of Maryland’s Judge Alexander Williams Center for Education, Justice & Ethics is the committed anchor tenant of the building and will serve as the programmatic epicenter of our social impact efforts in the future.
Learn more about the Williams Center.
The Elijah E. Cummings Archives will celebrate and recreate the campaign office of one of Maryland’s greatest leaders and another graduate of P.S. 103, Congressman Elijah Cummings.
To learn more, receive updates, or inquire about becoming a tenant of P.S. 103, please click here.
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