The Catonsville Colored School
According to a segment from WBAL-TV and historian Louis Diggs, The Catonsville Colored School was established in 1868 at the intersection of Edmondson Avenue and Winters Lane as an elementary school for black children. Winters Lane was the center of Catonsville’s free African American population after the Civil War. They purchased homes and established businesses there, including a grocery store owned by the Catonsville Cooperative Corporation, a collection of prosperous black men, located on the same intersection as the school.
According to a 1985 account by Ida Torsell, the Freedmen’s Bureau bought the land that was to be used for African Americans of Catonsville to build a school. Both black and white administrators oversaw the development of the school, including the influential African American blacksmith Remus Adams. Another administrator was the white abolitionist Reverend Libertus VanBokkelen of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church on Ingleside Avenue, who despite the church’s disapproval participated in the creation of the school and a church for the newly freed African Americans. Reverend VanBokkelen left his church position in 1871 due to his controversial assistance to the black community.
The Catonsville Colored School was built without restrooms or electricity and wasn’t sufficient in size for all the students, forcing some classes to be taught at the local grocery store and at Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church. There was no further education available locally to African Americans past the elementary school level. That changed in 1923 when the Catonsville Colored School was replaced by the Banneker School, which offered better facilities and a secondary education. The history of segregated schools in Catonsville ended in the 1960s with the closing of the Banneker School and the admission of black students to the previously white-only schools.