Sunset Hill School

The first school for Strasburg’s African American population was called the Queen Street School and was located at the end of West Queen Street.

That building housed grades 1-7 until 1929 when it burned. A new school, called Sunset Hill Colored School was built with the support of the local African American Community including the “Strasburg Colored Elks.” Students continued to complete their elementary education in this building. Anyone wishing to attend High School was bused to Frederick Douglas School in Winchester. The county did not provide free transportation until the 1950s. This trip discouraged many from completing their education.

Life at Sunset Hill was often difficult. Until the 1950s, there were no indoor restrooms or water fountains. Students brought their own lunches since there was no cafeteria. Heat was provided by a stove that was stoked by students. Books had to be bought and were usually the second-hand books from the white schools.

However the education program provided by African American teachers was very intense. These teachers and the members of the community were determined to provide their children with the type of education they needed to be successful. Many wanted to show their kids, and the white children in the community, could be equally successful. This meant discipline was strict, expectations were high, and community involvement in the school program was a given.

Shenandoah County continued to operate segregated schools until 1964 when the last of the county’s 100 African American students were given permission by the state to attend the white schools. Sunset Hill School closed that year and is today used for storage.