Jefferson High School (Los Angeles)

Coordinates: 34°00′34″N 118°15′03″W / 34.00958°N 118.25093°W / 34.00958; -118.25093
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Thomas Jefferson High School
1319 East 41st Street
Los Angeles, California 90011
Coordinates34°00′34″N 118°15′03″W / 34.00958°N 118.25093°W / 34.00958; -118.25093
School districtLos Angeles Unified School District
CEEB code051815
PrincipalAgustin Gonzalez
Teaching staff29.84 (FTE)[1]
Enrollment644 (2018-19)[1]
Student to teacher ratio21.58[1]
Color(s)Green and Gold    
Athletics conferenceExposition League
CIF Los Angeles City Section
NicknameDemocrats (Demos)
RivalJohn C. Fremont High School
YearbookThe Democrat

Thomas Jefferson High School, usually referred to as Jefferson High School, is a public high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Founded in 1916, it is the fourth oldest high school in the school district. Located in South Los Angeles, its surrounding communities are Downtown, Central-Alameda, Florence, Historic South-Central and South Park. Jefferson's school colors are kelly green and gold and the sports teams are called the Democrats, or Demos for short. In 2006, a pilot program called New Tech: Student Empowerment Academy began in the northeast portion of the school. New Tech has since become a separate charter school housed in the Jefferson building. In 2016 New Tech closed down and the available space is now used by Nava College Preparatory Academy a pilot school that was established in 2014.[2]


Jefferson High Original School from the Front, 1920
Jefferson High Original School aerial view, 1920
Jefferson High Original School from the Rear, 1920
Carmen de Lavallade and Alvin Ailey in 1954
Woody Strode plays left end for the Jefferson High Democrats in 1936
Ralph Bunche
Music Teacher Samuel Brown in 1926
Rep. Augustus F. Hawkins

In 1915, the citizens of Los Angeles voted to sell bonds to raise $4,600,000 to build schools in the Los Angeles area. Approximately $500,000 was appropriated to build Jefferson High School[3] on the "Stadium East Grounds" (The Old Coliseum)[a] which held approximately 25,000 people in a circled amphitheater configuration. The "Stadium," as it was known, was the site for hosting and entertaining travelers on the way to both the San Diego and San Francisco world expos in 1915. Numerous rodeos and bicycle races were held at the location.[4]

Architect Norman F. Marsh was hired to design the new Jefferson High School complex, the property front 1235 feet on Hooper Avenue, 1149 feet on Compton Avenue, and 952 feet on 34th Street and 392 feet on 38th street. The buildings of the group would be of brick and concrete construction, being faced with rug tapestry brick and trimmed with artificial stone. All corridors and stairways would be made absolutely fireproof. The classical style would be followed, each of the main structures having a dignified entrance portico with stone pediment and columns.[3]

Jefferson opened its doors on September 11, 1916, with 24 faculty members and two buildings completed. Theodore Fulton was installed as the school's first principal.[5]

On March 10, 1933, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in the city of Long Beach completely destroyed the infrastructure of the six buildings which composed the Jefferson High School Campus. The campus was closed from March 10 until April 6 while the school board assessed the situation. On April 6, tent bungalows provided by the school board were erected on the football fields. Classes were shortened to half day sessions in order to serve the entire student population.[6]


In 1933, Architect Stiles O. Clements was hired to build a 45-unit campus with a budget of $353,000.[7] The "Streamline Modern" building structures were completed in 1935. Ross Dickinson was selected and funded by Federal Art Project to paint four 11 feet by 5.5 foot murals with the theme "The History of Recorded Word". The murals were completed in 1937.[8]

As of 1936, several notable alumni such as Ralph Bunche, Woody Strode and Samuel R. Browne had graduated from Jefferson High School. All three men were African American, the first of many Jefferson alumni to break racial barriers in the politics of diplomacy, the art of dance, the art of music and the interpretation of sports. Jefferson produced more jazz musicians and composers than any other high school west of the Mississippi.[9] Many of the musicians were nurtured under the guidance of Samuel R. Browne.


It was in the Los Angeles City High School District until 1961, when it merged into LAUSD.[10]


In 1937, Jefferson won the first of eight California State Championships in track and field (1937, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1956, 1962, and 1964).[11] The four consecutive state championships in California (1949, 1950, 1951 and 1952) have not been surpassed today. Woody Strode is one of two men who broke the color barrier in the National Football League in 1946. Mal Whitfield and Charles Dumas both received gold medals in the Olympics. This is a rare instance when two Olympic Gold medalists have come from the same high school.


Jefferson High has produced more prominent jazz musicians and composers than any other public or private high school in California.[9] The school's music classes greatly impacted the participation of teenagers and young musicians in the Central Avenue jazz scene, its curriculum offering courses in music theory, music appreciation, harmony, counterpoint, orchestra, band, and choir. The hiring of influential teacher Samuel Browne in 1936 marked the beginning of a shift toward an integrated faculty in LA County public secondary schools and a pedagogical approach that emphasized mentorship, encouragement, and involvement with students and their families.[12]

Academic configuration[edit]

Jefferson is a traditional calendar school, composed of four Small Learning Communities (SLCs) and the Early College program which is located at L.A. Trade Tech. The goal of each SLC is to offer individualized attention to students.[13] The SLCs are as follows:

  • Academy of Business & Communication (ABC): focuses on building leaders in the liberal arts, retail, medical, legal and business fields.
  • Creative Arts and Expression (CAE): focuses on the creative energy and leadership within each student through the arts.
  • Global Outlook through Academic Leadership: focuses on building leaders in the social, political, environmental, health and economic fields
  • TPA Small Learning Community: focuses on building leaders in the education and social services fields

The Early College Program (Jefferson/Trade Tech. Incentive) accepts students, based on recommendation and interview, who have "extenuating circumstances" requiring special support to achieve college acceptance.

Notable alumni[edit]

Dancers and choreographers[edit]

Television and film actors[edit]

Television and film production and design[edit]

Politicians and judges[edit]


  • Stanley Crouch – syndicated columnist and novelist best known for his jazz criticism and his 2004 novel Don't the Moon Look Lonesome?[23]

Composers, songwriters, and music directors[edit]

Instrumental musicians[edit]



Visual Artists[edit]


Academic Performance Index (API)[edit]

API for High Schools in the LAUSD District 5 and local small public charter high schools in the East Los Angeles region.

School 2007 [51] 2008 [52] 2009 [53] 2010 [54] 2011 [55] 2012 2013 [56]
Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School 807 818 815 820 832 842 847
Marc and Eva Stern Math and Science School 718 792 788 788 809 785 775
Oscar De La Hoya Animo Charter High School 662 726 709 710 744 744 738
James A. Garfield High School 553 597 593 632 705 710 714
Abraham Lincoln High School 594 609 588 616 643 761 738
Woodrow Wilson High School 582 585 600 615 636
Theodore Roosevelt High School 557 551 576 608 793 788
Thomas Jefferson High School 457 516 514 546 546
Santee Education Complex 502 521 552 565 612 636


  1. ^ The Old Coliseum precedes the "Los Angeles Coliseum built in 1929 that hosted two Olympics. It was the main amphitheater in Los Angeles in the late 1800s.

See also[edit]

  • "Sisters at Heart", a 1970 episode of the TV series Bewitched that was written by students at Jefferson High School after having visited the set of that show and interacted with the cast and writers.


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  4. ^ Golden West as Pageant – Los Angeles Times – April 2nd, 1915
  5. ^ New High School faculty Name – Los Angeles Times – September 2nd, 1916
  6. ^ Last schools to reopen – Los Angeles Times – April 4th, 1933
  7. ^ Plans to be Prepared for Building Project – Los Angeles Times – September 30th, 1934
  8. ^ School Mural Depicts Writing, Graving, Printing – Los Angeles Times – May 16th 1937
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External links[edit]