Dunbar High School (Washington, D.C.)

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Dunbar High School
Dunbar High School DC (new building).jpg
101 N Street Northwest[1]


United States
Coordinates38°54′31″N 77°00′51″W / 38.9087°N 77.0142°W / 38.9087; -77.0142Coordinates: 38°54′31″N 77°00′51″W / 38.9087°N 77.0142°W / 38.9087; -77.0142
School typePublic high school
School districtDistrict of Columbia Public Schools Ward 5
PrincipalNadine Smith
Grades9 to 12
Enrollment653 (2015-16)[2]
Student to teacher ratio12.68[3]
Campus typeUrban
Color(s)  Black
Athletics conferenceDistrict of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association
MascotCrimson Tide
WebsiteSchool Website

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School is a public secondary school located in Washington, D.C., United States. The school is located in the Truxton Circle neighborhood of Northwest Washington, two blocks from the intersection of New Jersey and New York avenues. Dunbar, which serves grades 9 through 12, is a part of the District of Columbia Public Schools.

From the early 20th century to the 1950s, Dunbar became known as the classical academic high school for black students in the segregated public schools. As all public school teachers were federal civil servants, its teachers received pay equal to that of white teachers in other schools in the district. It attracted high-quality faculty, many with advanced degrees, including doctorates. Parents sent their children to the high school from across the city because of its high standards. Many of its alumni graduated from top-quality colleges and universities, and gained professional degrees.


Originally named the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth from 1891 to 1916 it became known as M Street High School. The school was founded as an educational mission at the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church. The school was one of America's first public high school for black students. When its location was changed from M Street, the school was renamed in 1916 for the noted African-American poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar, who died in 1906.[4]

Dunbar High School, Washington DC in 1917

As more high schools had been established, Dunbar was designated as the city's academic high school, with other schools providing more vocational or technical training. Dunbar was known for its excellent academics, enough so that some black parents moved to Washington specifically so their children could attend it. All the public school teachers were federal employees, and Dunbar's faculty was paid well by the standards of the time, earning parity pay with Washington's white school teachers. The school boasted a high number of graduates who went on to higher education and a generally successful student body.[4]:91

In the 21st century, Dunbar is similar to Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Maryland and Fort Worth, Texas, as all three schools have a majority African-American student body and are of major importance to the local African-American community. All three schools are also highly regarded for their athletic programs within their respective school district in the sports of football, basketball and track. There is also a Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, Kentucky.[4]:307

One of Dunbar's first principals in Washington, DC was the first black graduate of Harvard College. Almost all the teachers had graduate degrees, and several earned PhDs. By the 1950s, Dunbar High School was sending 80 percent of its students to college.[4]:173

According to columnist Thomas Sowell's 2015 appraisal, this all changed after the landmark United States Supreme Court Case Brown v. Board of Education that ruled for integration of public schools:

"For Washington, the end of racial segregation led to a political compromise, in which all schools became neighborhood schools. Dunbar, which had been accepting outstanding black students from anywhere in the city, could now accept only students from the rough ghetto neighborhood in which it was located. Virtually overnight, Dunbar became a typical ghetto school. As unmotivated, unruly and disruptive students flooded in, Dunbar teachers began moving out and many retired. More than 80 years of academic excellence simply vanished into thin air." [5]

Since its inception, the school has graduated many well-known figures of the 20th century, including Sterling Brown, H. Naylor Fitzhugh, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Charles R. Drew, William H. Hastie, Charles Hamilton Houston, Robert Heberton Terrell, Benjamin O. Davis Jr., Paul Capel, III, Robert C. Weaver, and James E. Bowman. Its illustrious faculty included Anna Julia Cooper, Kelly Miller, Mary Church Terrell, A. A. Birch Jr., Carter G. Woodson, and Julia Evangeline Brooks, who was also a graduate of the school. Among its principals were Anna J. Cooper, Richard Greener, Mary Jane Patterson, and Robert Heberton Terrell. An unusual number of teachers and principals held Ph.D. degrees, including historian Carter G. Woodson, the second African American to earn a PhD from Harvard (after W. E. B. Du Bois) and the father of 'Black History Month'.[4]:39-106[6]

Up until 1954, Fairfax County, Virginia, had no secondary schools for black students. Dunbar and several other District of Columbia public schools were able to accept black students from the county before that time.[7][8]


Dunbar competes in the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Student body[edit]

Dunbar has about 650 students.[9]

Approximately 46% of students qualified for free or reduced lunch.

Feeder patterns[edit]

Feeder elementary schools include:

  • J. F. Cook
  • Emery
  • Langdon
  • Marshall
  • Terrel
  • Webb
  • Wheatley
  • Young

Feeder middle schools include:

  • Browne

Feeder K-8 schools include:

  • Walker-Jones Education Center

Notable alumni[edit]

Artists and musicians[edit]



Scholars and professionals[edit]

Charles Drew in 1922 yearbook.


Notable faculty[edit]


  1. ^ GNIS entry for Dunbar Senior High School; USGS; December 31, 1981.
  2. ^ "Dunbar HS". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved December 29, 2018.
  3. ^ National Center for Education Statistics. Accessed December 6, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e Stewart, Alison. First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America's First Black Public High School. Chicago Review Press. p. 84. ISBN 978-1-61374-009-5.
  5. ^ Sowell, Thomas (October 4, 2016). "Dunbar High School after 100 Years". Creators Syndicate. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e "In Nation's First Black Public High School, A Blueprint For Reform". All Things Considered. NPR. July 29, 2013.
  7. ^ "History Archived August 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine." Luther Jackson Middle School. Retrieved on June 4, 2016.
  8. ^ "A History of Luther P. Jackson High School : A Report of a Case Study on the Development of a Black High School" (thesis abstract). Virginia Tech. Retrieved on June 4, 2016.
  9. ^ Dunbar High School
  10. ^ Schudel, Matt (April 3, 2012). "Elizabeth Catlett, pioneering D.C.-born artist, dies at 96". Washington Post.
  11. ^ Brown, Joe (November 14, 1983). "Washington's 'Wiz'". Washington Post.
  12. ^ Barnes, Bart (February 10, 1995). "Washington Poet, Playwright May Miller Sullivan Dies at 96". Washington Post.
  13. ^ Mergner, Lee (April 26, 2019). "Dr. Billy Taylor, Jazz Pianist, Dies". JazzTimes.
  14. ^ Shinhoster Lamb, Yvonne (January 23, 2005). "Arts Administrator, Playwright Vantile Whitfield Dies". Washington Post.
  15. ^ a b Goldenbach, Alan (November 23, 2006). "Different Paths, Same End". Washington Post.
  16. ^ a b c d Allen, Scott (October 18, 2016). "Dunbar High football alumni ruled the NFL in Week 6". Washington Post.
  17. ^ a b Pomerantz, Gary (April 2, 1986). "After the Fast Breaks Come the Tough Breaks". Washington Post.
  18. ^ "Cornelius Green Ohio State's 1st black QB has DC roots". USA TODAY High School Sports. November 7, 2014.
  19. ^ Hill Jr, Edward (November 13, 1980). "Dunbar's Mr. Jones: Crimson Tide's Ticket To Basketball Heaven". Washington Post.
  20. ^ Schudel, Matt (March 14, 2014). "Wil Jones, flamboyant UDC basketball coach, dies at 75" Washington Post. Retrieved January 11, 2021.
  21. ^ "Dunbar grad Kelley takes national honor". The Washington Times. March 29, 2007.
  22. ^ Barr, Josh (March 14, 1999). "Dunbar Hangs On To Wear the Crown". Washington Post.
  23. ^ Janes, Chelsea (October 30, 2014). "Throwback Thursday: Oct. 30, 1989, when Dunbar's Michael Smith picked Providence". Washington Post.
  24. ^ Bernstein, Adam (December 5, 2014). "Mary Washington, government official and widow of former D.C. mayor, dies at 88". Washington Post. Retrieved December 29, 2014.
  25. ^ Shapiro, T. Rees (May 25, 2012). "Wesley A. Brown, first black Naval Academy graduate, dies at 85". Washington Post.
  26. ^ "Army Maj. Gen. Frederic Davison Dies at 82". Washington Post. January 30, 1990.
  27. ^ Martin, Douglas (January 3, 2015). "Edward W. Brooke III, 95, Senate Pioneer, Is Dead". The New York Times.
  28. ^ a b c d "D.C.'s Dunbar High, America's First Black Public High School". The Kojo Nnamdi Show. August 20, 2013.
  29. ^ "Honoring Rear Admiral Lawrence Cleveland ``Larry Chambers". Congressional Record Vol. 164, No. 52. United States House of Representatives. March 26, 2018. p. E372.
  30. ^ Lindsay, Drew (May 1, 2004). "The Decision That Changed Everything | Washingtonian (DC)". Washingtonian.
  31. ^ McQuiston, John T. (June 6, 1988). "Clarence M. Pendleton, 57, Dies; Head of Civil Rights Commission". The New York Times.
  32. ^ States, United; Affairs, United States Congress Senate Committee on Governmental (May 22, 1995). Nominations of Inez Smith Reid, Linda Kay Davis, Ronna Lee Beck, and Eric Tyson Washington: Hearing Before the Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States Senate, One Hundred Fourth Congress. U.S. Government Printing Office. ISBN 978-0-16-052439-4.
  33. ^ Cloherty, Megan (March 30, 2016). "D.C. woman given unique award for service in Iraq". WTOP.
  34. ^ Holmes Norton, Eleanor (July 11, 2005). "Commending District of Columbia Court of Appeals Chief Judge Annice Wagner". Congressional Record, Volume 151, Part 11. United States House of Representatives.
  35. ^ "Obituaries of note: James E. Bowman, Dave Hill, Richard W. Mallary, Leonard Dillon". Washington Post. February 28, 2011.
  36. ^ "About Sterling A. Brown". poets.org. Academy of American Poets.
  37. ^ Gruber, Katie (August 7, 2018). "Charting a Course". South Side Weekly.
  38. ^ a b "W. Allison Davis '24 and John A. Davis '33". The Davis Center. Retrieved August 20, 2020.
  39. ^ Barnes, Bart (December 21, 2002). "John Aubrey Davis Sr". Washington Post.
  40. ^ Nilipour, Leila; Valenzuela, Mauricio Valenzuela. "El Gorgas, un laboratorio que no duerme". Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  41. ^ Kelly, John (April 6, 2020). "The untimely death of his sister from the flu inspired this D.C. doctor to greatness". Washington Post.
  42. ^ "H. Naylor Fitzhugh Dies". Washington Post. July 29, 1992.
  43. ^ Lamb, Evelyn (May 1, 2014). "Happy 90th Birthday, Evelyn Boyd Granville!". Scientific American Blog Network.
  44. ^ Colbert I. King - "Dunbar High School's sad descent into hard times", Washington Post]
  45. ^ Fatsis, Stefan (December 28, 2020). "The complicated racial history of the high school D.C. is renaming". Washington Post. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
  46. ^ Brubaker, Bill (November 2, 1989). "COURTING RAYFUL EDMOND". Washington Post. Retrieved April 1, 2019.

External links[edit]