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New book preserves the history of a town and its people
By Jessica Bauer   - 08/19/2009

The Sentinel

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

If a picture is worth a thousand words, than the newly released book detailing the Lakeland area’s history through old photographs tells the story better than words ever could.

“Lakeland: African Americans in College Park,” which officially went on sale Aug. 17, is part of Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series and is a book of pictorial history, according to the publishing company’s press release.

Each page has photos on it, and each photo is accompanied by a detailed caption describing the photo. And, with each photo, Lakeland’s history unfolds before each new reader’s eyes.

Violetta Sharps-Jones, a member of the Lakeland Community Heritage Project, the group in charge of putting together the book, said that compiling a book of old photographs from the Lakeland area was rewarding.

“Only one small section of Lakeland is still in existence,” Sharps-Jones said. “As we reflect on the community, since urban renewal and since so much of the physical part of Lakeland is gone, we needed to preserve the history since it is so important,” Sharps-Jones said, explaining that Lake Artemesia sits where Lakeland used to be.

The Lakeland Community Heritage Project, which consists of 15 to 20 people, started to collect photos for this pictorial history project in 2007, according to Sharps-Jones, who added that to find the photos of this community, the group advertised through churches and other community organizations.

And the history that this group worked so hard to retell through photos is one they know shouldn’t be lost.

According to the group’s Web site, Prince George’s County in the 1890s, a time of legalized segregation, was mostly populated by whites. Lakeland was divided by railroad tracks, with whites living to the west and black living to the east.

“This began to change around the dawn of the 20th century when African Americans John C. Johnson and Joseph Brooks moved their families to new homes in an area west of the railroad tracks. Oral histories tell us that these families endured threats to their lives and property. Over the next several years, nearly all of the white residents left as African Americans continued to arrive to make homes in Lakeland,” according to the group’s Web site.

“Lakeland” details the lives of those who lived in Lakeland at this significant time.

Lakeland High School, a place talked about in many of the photo captions, from 1928 to 1950, was the school in the area designated for African Americans to attend, according to Sharps-Jones. “In 1950, they opened Fairmont Heights High School. Lakeland became an elementary and junior high school,” she added.

This book, one of many in the “Images of America” series, which started in 1993, is a great way to bring people together to remember the history of this important town, according to the author. Each photo tells a story, especially for those who know someone in each photo.

And, even if you don’t know anything about the Lakeland area or the people who grew up there during such a significant time in our nation’s history, flipping through the pages of this book allows you to slip on the shoes of the Lakelanders who lived during the time of segregation.

“[The book] is just a tribute to them. It was just a wonderful place to live,” Sharps-Jones said, adding that the book is well supported by the community.

“We’ve got nothing but positive responses from it,” she said. “It has brought back so many memories for people.”

And for Sharps-Jones, the book brings back additional memories. “Mine goes back to back to a wedding picture – My mom and dad’s photo. In 1945, they had a formal wedding with over 10 bridesmaids. I just find it so fascinating that it was such a fancy wedding.”

The Lakeland Community Heritage Project, Inc., is holding several events to promote their new book. The group will be participating in a book signing at the Negro League Legends Hall of Fame Game this Saturday, Aug. 22, at the University of Maryland, College Park. Other events are also scheduled. For more information, visit the group’s website, http://lakelandchp.com/.

“Lakeland: African Americans in College Park” sells for $21.99 and is published by Arcadia Publishing. The book is available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing at 888-313-2665 or www.arcadiapublishing.com.

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

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