Blackwell School Once Punished Students for Speaking Spanish

 | October 27, 2022

Credit: Nuestro Stories

From 1909 to 1965, the adobe building known as The Blackwell School was the sole educational institution for Latino children in the small town of Marfa, Texas. 

Yet, as the sole institution, it acted as one of the many segregated schools spread across the United States. Schools that served to separate Black or Brown students from their white counterparts. 

In the instance of The Blackwell School, it not only acted as a means to segregate Latino students from white students, but it also served a separate purpose. It acted as a tool of assimilation that prevented Latino students from speaking Spanish in school, despite the fact that in the case of Marfa, the majority of the town’s population spoke Spanish as a first language. 

According to reports from students who once attended Blackwell School, there were a variety of punishments that were enacted when students were caught speaking Spanish at school, from the classroom to the playground. Everything from write-ups and demerits, to being locked in closets, and physical beatings. The language was literally beaten out of students in order to demonize their culture and heritage, equating the use of Spanish with something wrong, near criminal. Ironically, there were no laws necessary to segregate the schools at the time, the systemic oppression was built into the framework. 

It was in 1965 when schools across the country were forced to desegregate after a Supreme Court decision ruled it unconstitutional. 

Today, the Blackwell School still stands as a historic landmark and acts as a learning tool for anyone who visits, as they are able to access stories of the students who once attended class in the space. 

Read more: Latin Americans Know Coffee Best

Things to know before you visit the Blackwell School: 

  • The Blackwell School is located at 501 S Abbott St., Marfa, Texas. 
  • The school was recently named a National Park site after President Joe Biden signed the Blackwell School National Historic Act into law on Oct 17, 2022.×250.jpeg

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