Other Schools

When were public schools for blacks established?

America’s first public school was established in 1635. The first schools in the United States were private and founded and/or supported by religious groups, such as Puritans and Roman Catholics. Their schools were also reflective of the particular belief system of the founding entity. By the mid-eighteenth century private schools catered to wealthy males. Many years would pass before the idea that a public school should provide an education for all children was generally accepted. Snowden School, Virginia, was the first state school for blacks. Founded in 1870, the school was short-lived. In 1872 the first recorded free public school established for blacks was founded in Salem, Massachusetts. Blacks continued to receive an unequal education and far less educational resources than whites.

The Preparatory High School for Colored Youth, the first public high school for blacks in the country, opened in the basement of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. It moved to its first permanent location in 1891, when it occupied a building on M Street, N.W. It then became known as the M Street High School, and twenty-five years later, was renamed to honor Paul Laurence Dunbar. The M Street/Dunbar High School was acknowledged as the best public high school for blacks in the country.


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