A closely knit all-black community of 150 families, Lakelanders developed strong familial, community and religious structures. Clubs and organizations provided avenues for social interaction and expressions of community.
Lakeland's churches have always been important centers of community activity, and they remain so today. Churches were not only places of worship; they also served a variety of the community's social and educational needs. The original churches of Lakeland included Embry African Methodist Episcopal Church and First Baptist Church.
A one-room schoolhouse for African American children was built in 1904, largely through the efforts of community leaders John C. Johnson, Pleasant Brown and Edward Carter. The space soon proved inadequate so from 1907 to 1917 children also went to school at the First Baptist Church, and in the homes of the school's trustees. The John C. Johnson Elementary School, a two-room elementary school, was built in 1917, funded in part by the Rosenwald Foundation and the community.
The growing need to educate the African American children beyond elementary school prompted parents and community leaders to lobby the Prince George's County Board of Education for the construction of a high school By 1926, Lakeland was chosen as the site of the school. The land for the school
and the labor to build it were provided by Lakelanders. The money for the building materials was provided by the Rosenwald Foundation. Lakeland High School opened in 1928; however by 1950 the school had become Lakeland Elementary and Junior High School. It continued operating as a school until the 1970s, when Paint Branch Elementary School opened.
Even for the close-knit community of Lakeland, challenges such as flooding and relocation threatened the town's stability. These issues coupled with various urban renewal projects have helped to dramatically change the demographics of the Lakeland community. As a result of these population shifts, many of the residents who called Lakeland home have left the area.
In 1976, the man-made lake was relocated to its current location to make way for the extension of the Washington Metro rail line. Lake Artemesia is situated on what was the eastside of Lakeland where the first African American Lakelanders settled. The 38 acre lake connects the remaining community, College Park Airport and the Calvert Road Park.
Today, Lakeland residents, past and present, work to protect the physical and emotional place that Lakeland has in their lives. This includes maintaining their community spirit and love for places. It is through their dedication, that the community has transcended the challenges it has faced and survives to this day.
Lakeland's first school was a one room schoolhouse. Teacher Geroge G. Waters sits with students, ca 1920. Courtesy of the Randall Family.
Lakeland High School, ca. 1960.
The Lakeland Tavern was one of the most popular hangouts for residents of Lakeland, ca. 1960. Courtesy of Thelma Lomax.
Group of children in front of Embry African American Episcopal Church, 1979. Courtesy of Maxine and Delphine Gross.
Choir from First Baptist Church, ca. 1940. Courtesy of Mary Day Hollomond.
Lakeland Elementary School upper grades. February 17, 1944. Courtesy of Leonard Smith.
Group of students pictured in front of Lakeland High School, ca. 1940. Courtesy of Diane Ligon.
The Counts, a social club for the men of Lakeland held formal events at the Lakeland Hall, ca. 1940. Courtesy of Diane Weems Ligon.
The wives of the Counts in formal attire, ca. 1940. Courtesy of Diane Weems Ligon.
Lakeland Elementary School, built in 1920 with funds from the community and matching funds from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation, circa 1920. Courtesy of the Julius Rosenwald Foudation.