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Lakeland's history documented in book
By David Hill   - 08/13/2009

Gazette.net

More Info on This Book: Lakeland: African Americans in College Park

In 2007, several Lakeland residents formed the Lakeland Community Heritage Project out of fear that the College Park neighborhood's history was going by the wayside.

The African-American neighborhood was founded in the predominantly white Prince George's County in 1890.

"We were sitting around saying that Lakeland as we knew it had changed," said LCHP chairwoman Maxine Gross. "And lot of the new residents weren't even aware of what we felt was a rich past."

Their solution was to begin collecting photos and oral history from some of the 1,200-person community's longest-tenured residents. Two years later, the result is "Lakeland: African Americans in College Park," a 128-page photo book that documents the neighborhood's history and will be released Monday at select bookstores.

"I think it's going to be excellent for the simple reason that it goes back to the old Lakeland," said Leonard Smith, 82, a resident since 1941. "The older people love it because it brings back memories and the younger people will love it because they didn't know the history."

The book has more than 200 black-and-white photos and features some of Lakeland's greatest institutions, including Lakeland High School, which opened in 1928 and closed in 1972, and First Baptist Church of College Park and Embry A.M.E. Church which were founded in 1901 and 1903, respectively, and still operate today.

There are also photos of prominent black politicians from Lakeland, including Smith and the late Dervey Lomax College Park's only black mayor as well as Gross, who served on the City Council from 1989 to 1997.

"The book is just the tip of the iceberg of what's happened," said Smith, who served on the College Park City Council from 1965 to 1967. "They'll have to come out with a second edition to try to tell the majority of stuff that's happened in Lakeland."

Gross described Lakeland as a close-knit community where, for decades, there was little turnover. Families often held onto their houses for generations and knew all their neighbors.

Part of that close-knit feel went away with the federal government's urban renewal projects of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Many of the neighborhood's oldest homes and businesses were demolished to make room for what were described as newer, comparably-priced housing. In all, about two-thirds of the community was torn down.

While longtime residents acknowledge the area is different, they've learned to appreciate both the present and past.

"The fact that the community has changed is not necessarily a bad thing," Gross said. "But it is a bad thing if we forget the past."

Copies will also be available through the Heritage Project and www.arcadiapublishing.com, the Web site of the book's publisher, South Carolina-based Arcadia Publishing.

Buy It Now: Lakeland: African Americans in College Park $21.99




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