Manassas Jennie Dean Memorial Industrial School, Manassas


By John Cowgil

Many passed Jennie Dean Primary School on Wellington Road, and many passed the Jennie Dean Memorial located opposite the school. How many stopped to take a look at the memorial? How many people even know who Jennie Dean is? They don’t teach about her in schools or colleges today, but she’s someone you’d like to meet.

Jane Septa Dean, commonly known as “Jennie” Dean, was born in 1848 into slavery in Prince William County. She was not well educated, but took a job in Washington, D.C. to help support her family. She watched her fellow African Americans struggle through life with few skills and low-paying jobs. It didn’t go over well with Jennie Dean, who herself became a skilled worker. She founded churches to include the Church of Mount Calvary in Catharpin.

In order for her fellow African Americans to learn the skills she had learned, the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth was opened in 1893, and many African Americans were taught the skills needed to obtain well-paying jobs. Andrew Carnegie, a famous industrialist, made a contribution to the school and the library was named in his honor. Oswald Garrison Villard, editor of the Saturday night post, donated to the school and served as its president from 1905 to 1913. Frederick Douglass, a great orator, social reformer, and the first American-American to serve in a US presidential cabinet (under Abraham Lincoln), delivered the opening speech at the dedication ceremony. Many foreigners contributed to the school. Emily Howland of New York donated $1000.00 towards payment for the land and Howland Hall was named in her honor.

Jennie Dean died in 1913 and is buried at Mount Calvary Church. The Manassas Industrial School for young people of color is long gone, but neither Jennie Dean nor the school has been forgotten. Jennie Dean Elementary School was built adjacent to the school site. As for the site itself, a memorial has been built. On the site, you’ll see the outline of the school’s structures, including Howland Hall and Carnegie Hall, the school’s largest building. You will see a statue of Jennie Dean herself and you will see a model of the school. As you walk around you will see the work of an amazing woman.

Looking at the statue of Jennie Dean

The Jennie Dean Memorial Industrial School in Manassas is located across from Jennie Dean Elementary School on Wellington Road at the intersection with Prince William Street. It is a short drive from Old Town Manassas and Virginia Route 28. The memorial is accessible all day and night. Parking is on site, but may be limited when school is in session. The grounds are wheelchair accessible, but unpaved areas can be tricky.

Next time you’re driving Wellington Road, take a detour to Jennie Dean Elementary School. Walk around the memorial. Prepare to be amazed by an incredible woman.

John Cowgill ( likes to visit historic places to include lesser known sites. He loves road trips and he loves railroads. You can also follow him on Facebook at “John Cowgill: Photographic Journeys” and John Cowgill: DC Railroad Examiner. You can also view “John Cowgill: Railroad Stories” at


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