Sumner High School is a renowned historically significant institution for African Americans dating back to the 19th century. It is named after renowned abolitionist senator Charles Sumner. In a segregated St Louis, the school stood out as a beacon of hope for the middle-class in The Ville neighborhood. Sumner High School was the first high school for African American students west of the Mississippi River in the United States.
Sumner High School opened its doors in 1875 (Carson, 2015) following an amendment of the US constitution that required all school boards to support the education of African Americans. Up to the 1920s, the high school was the only school for African Americans despite a rapid increase in the black population.
The school was housed in an old building that was considered unsafe for the white students, and the teachers were all white until 1877. In the 1880s, parents lobbied to have the school moved to 15th and Walnuts streets because students had to pass through the city gallows and morgue to get to school.
The African American community protested the deplorable conditions that included grated prison cells, execution setups, and sometimes even dead bodies awaiting identification. African American parents were bent on having their children educated in a decent neighborhood away from saloons and pool houses. As a result of their lobbying, the school changed locations once again in the 1890s.
The high school is of great significance to the black community as it portrays the community's commitment to advocating for educational resources for its children. The school helped stabilize the community and offer a sense of belonging to the children, and it served as a solid foundation for academic achievement.
Sumner high-school was considered a school for the upper echelon African Americans, but it still educated students whose parents were common laborers. The African American community held the staff of Sumner High School in high regard and considered them the role models of the community.
R. Sarah Carson. "Sumner High School." Clio: Your Guide to History. April 16, 2015. Accessed November 20, 2021. https://theclio.com/entry/13412
Sarah Hobson, Ph.D. specializes in supporting teams, departments and schools, businesses, and government agencies in building inclusive innovative change-making communities who understand how to connect well with and join diverse populations in providing needed sustainable resources for all youth and families.