Black History Month 2024: First Class- Ch. 3 The Law Giveth And The Law Taketh Away

This year for Black History Month we’ll review chapter by chapter Alison Stewart’s First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School. This is more Truxton Circle related then this blog’s previous annual looks at Shaw resident and founder of Negro History Week (later Black history month) Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s Mis-Education of the Negro. As Dunbar High School is located in Truxton Circle currently taking up all of Square 554.

Like the last chapter we’re still in the 19th century and not in Truxton Circle.

William Syphax (1825-1891)

This chapter covers African American education in Washington, DC in the late 1800s. The president of the Board of Trustees of Colored Schools of Washington and Georgetown in Washington, D.C. was William Syphax. He along with others managed to grow the number of schools for Black students in the District of Columbia from one to 75 by 1872. The board had the support of Senator Charles Sumner, for whom the Charles Sumner School and Museum is named.

Syphax, other Black elites, and other supporters, established in 1870 the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth at the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church. As the school grew it moved around a bit before settling at 128 M Street NW to become the M Street High School, where the Perry School sits, sort of across the street from Truxton Circle. It operated as a college prep high school from 1982 to about 1916 when it moved into Truxton Circle.

There’s a fair amount of politicking mentioned in this chapter. It doesn’t relate to Truxton Circle, so I’m skipping that part.