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Ferdinand T. Day

Ferdinand T. Day: civil rights icon and education pioneer

Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School is named after a civil rights icon, education pioneer and trailblazer.

Day was elected to the Alexandria City School Board – just ten years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision. He became the first African American to be elected chair of a public school board in Virginia.

Day was highly active in working towards the desegregation of Alexandria and was named a living legend for his role in the integration of Alexandria schools and his work in obtaining rights and opportunities for African Americans in the city.

He was born in 1918 in Alexandria and went to Parker-Gray School through eighth grade before continuing his secondary education in D.C. Public Schools. Alexandria offered no formal high school education for Blacks at that time. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in geography and history. Unable to teach in Alexandria because he was Black, he joined the federal government and retired from the Department of State as a Foreign Service Reserve Officer.

Day lamented that Alexandria was a typical southern city with problems prevalent in the Deep South and worked tirelessly to affect positive change at the community and state level.

He volunteered for the NAACP and Urban League before joining the Alexandria City School Board. He later served as vice chair of the Virginia State Boards of Community Colleges. In 1985, he was selected by the Secretary of Education to assist in the continued implementation of desegregation for higher education.

Over the years, Day received many awards for outstanding community service from numerous community groups and organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Northern Virginia and Washington Urban Leagues, and the U.S. Department of State.