Black History Month 2024: First Class- Ch. 12 New School

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.

Southeast on 7th and M Street, 1969

This chapter starts with the 1968 riots which pretty much destroyed much of 9th and 7th Street in Shaw. Yes, other neighborhoods experienced damage too, but we’re focusing on Shaw. The damage lasted 30 years. Whatever plans for the Shaw School Urban Renewal Area took on a new spirit after the riots and redoing Dunbar was part of it.

There were pre-riot plans for the Dunbar facility. There was a modernization plan to make it larger than Eastern High School. After the riot the School Board decided the building needed to be torn down.

As the 1970s approach Dunbar was a completely different school. Gone were the high standards and expectations of earlier years. There was a mix and range of students. And there were drug dealers around the neighborhood.

This chapter gives some detail about the prison like structure that loomed on Square 554 for 30 years. The new Dunbar Senior High School would be modern. It had open classrooms. I’m sure that idea looked great on paper.

Of course Dunbar alumni fought the good fight and tried to save the original 1916 building. Senator Brooke (mentioned in the previous chapter) lent his support for saving the old building. Apparently the building was recognized as an historic landmark. The alumni even took the city to court in 1977. June 2, 1977 the city began to knock down the old Dunbar building.