Lakeland, the historical African American community of College Park, was formed around 1890 on the doorstep of the Maryland Agricultural College, now the University of Maryland. For most of its history homes extended from the Lake Artemesia area to Baltimore Avenue. The community thrived until its self-contained uniqueness was undermined by the federal government’s urban renewal program and by societal change. The story of Lakeland is the tale of a community which was was established and flourished in a segregated society and developed its own institutions and traditions.
The Lakeland Community Heritage Project, Inc.(LCHP), was formed in 2007,to preserve Lakeland’s history and the stories of its people through photographic archives and oral histories. That record is being shared through projects like this mural, educational programs, outreach activities, and Images of America: Lakeland: African Americans in College Park.
Images from the LCHP Archive were the inspiration for this mural. It depicts people and places of Lakeland as well as an introduction to the community’s history.
During the 1950s and 60s, Embry A.M.E. Church was home to Cub Scout Pack 1025 while Boy Scout Pack 1025 was sponsored by the First Baptist Church of College Park.
Baseball was an important summer pastime among the African-American communities in Prince George’s County. Most of the communities had their own teams, which played each other. The baseball season was capped with a day of games and picnicking in Laurel, Maryland, to celebrate Emancipation Day, when Abraham Lincoln granted freedom to about 3,100 enslaved people in the District of Columbia, nine months before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation.
In 1890, African-American Christians in Lakeland began to gather for worship in the homes of community members. From these meetings two congregations were born, the First Baptist Church of Lakeland (later College Park) in 1891, and the Embry African Methodist Episcopal Chapel (later Church) in 1903. Both these congregations are still on Lakeland Road today.
Rev. Milton A. Covington lead the congregation of the First Baptist Church of Lakeland (later College Park) for 47 years. In addition to his spiritual work, Rev. Covington helped build the church. In 1959, the old church was demolished. Services were held at Lakeland Hall while the new church was erected by Pastor Covington, a mason; James Claiborne; Harold Pitts; and other dedicated parishioners. Members marched to their new church when it was completed in September 1962.
The University of Maryland was a primary source of employment for many generations of Lakeland residents. Until the 1970s, work open to African Americans was limited. African Americans could not attend the University of Maryland until 1954, and few undergraduates of color were admitted until the 1970s. Lakelander Constance Sandidge graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park in 1969. About her graduation she wrote, “I had no idea that I was doing anything out of the ordinary. Our parents instilled in my sisters and me that we could be successful at anything, and they made unbelievable sacrifices to ensure that we would get a firm academic foundation.”
The site of Lake Artemesia Park was once home to about one third of the Lakeland community.The image represented here was of a young serviceman posing with friends while he was visiting home on leave during World War II. The original photograph was taken near a family home on the site of Lake Artemesia Natural Area. That area was forcibly redeveloped in the 1970s
Dessie Randall Thomas was a member of the first graduating class of Lakeland High School in 1931. She went on to graduate complete Bowie Normal School becoming one of the first Lakelanders to seek a post-secondary education. Mrs. Thomas served as Sunday School superintendent at Embry A.M.E. Church for thirty-two years. Through her dedicated teaching and fine example, she guided the education of generations of Lakeland’s youth.
Edgar A. Smith was appointed principal of Lakeland High School when the school opened in 1928. He held the position until 1966, through its transition to a junior high and later to an elementary school. During much of this period, he also served as a classroom teacher. Even with these responsibilities, Smith completed his master’s degree at Temple University.
World War II veteran, Dervey A. Lomax grew up and lived his adult life in Lakeland. His family home stood within the site of what is now Lake Artemesia Natural Site. After serving several terms as a member of the College Park City Council, Mr. Lomax was elected mayor of College Park in 1973. He was re elected to city council and served for a total of 28 years. In addition to his work with the City, Mr. Lomax served on various citizens groups including the Prince George’s County Human Relations Commission.
From 1917 to 1932, the Rosenwald Fund contributed to the building of approximately 5,000 schools for African-American children in southern states. The Rosenwald program provided state-of-the-art school plans along with partial funding. Communities were required to provide cash or in-kind contributions; the remainder of the school costs was borne by local school boards. Lakeland had two such schools. Lakeland Elementary, built in 1925, replacing the earlier school; and Lakeland High School, built in 1928. The Lakeland Elementary School building was on the site of Lake Artemesia Natural Area.
Lake Artemesia was initially dug in the mid-nineteenth century by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to retrieve gravel for use as ballast. It was later developed for recreational use by Edwin A. Newman in the 1890s. The lake was a center of recreation for the community, with swimming and fishing in summer and skating in winter. The lake was also the site of breeding ponds for the Baltimore Goldfish Company and later the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries.
From the 1960s through the mid-1980s, the urban renewal process in Lakeland demolished local landmarks, many family homes, displaced 104 of 150 households. It replaced much of the neighborhood with an enlarged lake now Lake Artemesia Natural Area, a mix of subsidized townhouses, high-density apartments largely inhabited by students,and a high rise affordable housing facility.
The community has a rich past and Lakeland lives on.