On March 12th, the Jefferson County Board of Education approved the re-naming of the “Opportunity Learning Center” to the “Martin Robison Delany Opportunity Learning Center (MRD OLC)”. The request was made by the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society. Founders of the Society include the late Nathaniel Downing, Star Lodge #1 PM and OES PGWP, James Taylor, PM #1, George Rutherford, PM #1 and PGM, and James Tolbert, PM #1 and PGM. The school is adjacent to Star Lodge #1 on Martin Robison Delany Place in Charles Town. This is the second school in Jefferson County named after prominent Blacks.
PM Taylor briefly addressed the Board and was accompanied by Society members Rutherford and Tolbert. Star Lodge and the new MRD OLC are separated by Avis Street. John Avis and Martin Delany were boyhood friends. Jailer John Avis transported John Brown to his execution site in December 1859. Delany was born on May 6, 1812, in Charles Town,VA (now WV). Virginia prohibited Blacks from learning to read and write. Young Martin’s family violated this “law” by learning to read and write. After officials learned that the Delany family had violated this “law”, his mother moved the children to Chambersburg, PA. Delany went on to attend Harvard Medical School, co-edited the “North Star” newspaper with Frederick Douglass, and was commissioned a Major in the U.S. Army in the Civil War by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, on the recommendation of President Abraham Lincoln. The Society will be working with school officials in planning a new sign unveiling ceremony in early May.
Several other events have been planned this year to celebrate Delany’s 200th birthday. PGM Rutherford heads this birthday planning committee. Serving on the committee are PGM Harold Stewart, Star Lodge#1 PM Maurice Ballard and PGM Tolbert. Star Lodge plans a birthday observance and a MRD Golf Tournament on May 18.