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Loyola Blakefield sends letters to parents, alumni, says it is investigating allegations of racism in school’s past

Loyola Blakefield is one of two private schools in Baltimore County facing pressure to distance themselves from their institutions’ history of racism.
Loyola Blakefield is one of two private schools in Baltimore County facing pressure to distance themselves from their institutions’ history of racism. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

Loyola Blakefield sent a letter to parents and alumni Thursday afternoon, writing that it takes allegations of racism in the school’s history seriously and will work to find whether there is any truth behind the claims.

Calls for the school to change its name surfaced Monday after a petition created by Ralph Moore, one of the school’s prominent black alumni, claimed that in 1931, as part of giving land for the school’s Towson campus, the Blake family, for whom the school is named, said black students should not be admitted.

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Moore, a 1970 graduate and long-standing Baltimore community activist, wrote that as a result, black students were “officially banned from admission” from 1931 to 1956. Ken Montague was the first African American to graduate from Loyola, doing so in 1960, according to the school’s website.

“We are in close dialogue with a number of our African American alumni who have raised this issue and have pledged to work together in discerning the facts,” said the letter, signed by school president Anthony Day and chair of the board of trustees, Brian P. Hartman.

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“We have undertaken a forensic examination of our archives and all available documentation (including what may be available in the Jesuit Province archives) to discover if, indeed, there was any stipulation attached to the Blake family gift in 1931 restricting the admission of black students. To date, we have not found any documentation that would substantiate the allegation or indicate an expressed racial bias by the Blake family.”

The letter also stated that the school is in contact with present-day Blake family members who have agreed to assist in providing any documentation related to the matter.

Loyola was established in 1852 on Holiday Street in Baltimore, according to the school’s website. In 1933, George Blake helped the school obtain the land that is now known as Blakefield, according to the website.

Moore, who also taught at Loyola, said the efforts to change the school’s name are just part of a lengthy attempt to get the school to acknowledge the history of African Americans and become more racially inclusive. Moore said he was told the alleged story of the school’s history by local Jesuits and added he would be surprised if the school unearthed written proof, alluding to a possible “handshake deal.”

Moore said he and other black alumni have tried to get Loyola to acknowledge the school’s black history — Moore’s petition urges the school to name its new middle school academic center after one of the four students to racially integrate the school in the 1960s — but “the school is not particularly focused on race now.”

“The sins of the father don’t have to be the sins of the son,” Moore said.

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